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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Sanders v. Kern High School District ED-CA-0019
Docket / Court S1500CV283224 ( State Court )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization MALDEF
Case Summary
On October 9, 2015, African-American and Latino students and parents, a Kern County taxpayer, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF, a non-profit membership organization promoting academic success for all students) filed this lawsuit in the California Superior Court of Kern County. The plaintiffs ... read more >
On October 9, 2015, African-American and Latino students and parents, a Kern County taxpayer, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF, a non-profit membership organization promoting academic success for all students) filed this lawsuit in the California Superior Court of Kern County. The plaintiffs brought this action against Kern High School District (KHSD), Kern County Office of Education (KCOE), the California Department of Education (CDE), and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to end discriminatory expulsions and transfer practices in KHSD.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that KHSD, historically an intentionally segregated school district, continues to discriminate students of color. Eighty percent of the school in the District are racially over-represented. For example, seven schools in KHSD have an enrollment of over 50% White students, although the overall enrollment in the District is predominantly non-White (with 6% African-American students and 62% Latino students). Over 2010-2015, a disproportionately high number of Latino and African-American students in KHSD were suspended, expelled, and involuntarily transferred or assigned to alternative schools in KHSD (where students are reported to achieve less academic success).

Plaintiffs claimed that KHSD's discriminatory policy was to blame for the racially and ethnically disproportionate expulsion, suspension, and transfer decisions in KHSD. Prior to bringing suit, DHF had met with KHSD to express concerns about the discriminatory expulsions and transfers and suggested changes to the school district's Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) regarding its discipline policies, which were allegedly ignored by the defendants.

Plaintiffs first claimed that the discriminatory suspensions and transfers violated the equal protection and educational rights of the students guaranteed by the California and United States Constitution. Second, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants violated and federal and state laws that impose affirmative obligation to prevent discriminatory policies and practices on entities that receive federal or state funding (Cal. Gov't Code, §11135, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 526a, 1085).

On December 4, 2015, the court dismissed the State of California as a defendant from the lawsuit. The court held that no valid cause of action has been stated against the State of California, as opposed to one or more of its agencies. Specifically, the court held that the plaintiffs failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a Due Process rights violation, because the sections of the Education Code that the plaintiffs claimed to be unconstitutionally vague was not overbroad as a matter of law.

On March 2016, the plaintiffs appealed this decision to the Fifth District Court of Appeals, as they believed the State of California has the independent and ultimate responsibility for District oversight and ensuring quality and equitable education for all California students. See EJS Press Release.

On May 24, 2016, Judge Chapin of Kern County issued an order denying the KHSD’s attempt to dismiss the case in its entirety and allowed the majority of claims in the lawsuit to go forward against the district, including the suit against its Board of Trustees and Superintendent Bryon Schaefer. See EJS Press Release. In the same order, Judge Chapin stopped the plaintiffs from proceeding with their case against the remaining three defendants until there was a ruling on the state appeal. The plaintiffs motioned to lift the stay, reasoning that the appeal could proceed without prejudicing the other defendants, but Judge Chapin denied the motion.

On July 26, 2016, the plaintiffs withdrew their appeal and decided to proceed with the lawsuit against the remaining defendants, considering the interests of the ongoing harm done to the students and organizational members.

The lawsuit is ongoing as of August 2016.

Soojin Cha - 10/17/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Language
Spanish
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.
Defendant(s) California Department of Education
Kern County Office of Education
Kern High School District
Tom Torlakson
Plaintiff Description African-American and Latino students and parents, Kern County tax payer, and Dolores Huerta Foundation ("DHF," a non-profit membership organization promoting academic success for all students)
Indexed Lawyer Organizations MALDEF
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Unknown
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity Through the State Courts
By: Michael Rebell (Columbia University, and Campaign for Educational Equity)
Citation: (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Links Dear Colleague Letter: Athletic Activities Counted for Title IX Compliance
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html
Posted: Sep. 17, 2008
By: United States Department of Education—Office of Civil Rights (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
S1500CV283224 ­ (State Trial Court) 10/13/2016
ED-CA-0019-9000.pdf | Detail
State Court Website
General Documents
Complaint and Petition for Writ of Mandate 10/09/2014
ED-CA-0019-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Civil Rights Groups Seek To Compel Kern High School District To Eliminate Discriminatory Suspension and Expulsion Policies 10/09/2014
ED-CA-0019-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Order 12/04/2015
ED-CA-0019-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: State Court Website
Plaintiffs Fighting for Latino, Black Students in Kern County Will Proceed without State of California and Pursue Their Discrimination Claims Against other Defendants 07/26/2016
ED-CA-0019-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Bradshaw, J. Eric Court not on record
ED-CA-0019-0004
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Aleguire, Zabrina (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Andreas, Lyndsi D. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Crawford, Patricia (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Durali, Sahar (California)
ED-CA-0019-0002 | ED-CA-0019-9000
Elder, Gabriel (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Gomez, Martha L. (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Gonzalez, Larry (California)
ED-CA-0019-0002
Guggenheim, Steven D. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Hustace, Kip M. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Larralde, Isidro (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Marshall-Bass, Lillian May (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Ostler, Joni L. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Phillips, Jeneece M. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Ramirez, Mario (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Ramirez, Carmen (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Rice, Cynthia Louise (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Saenz, Thomas A. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Sanders, Arlene (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Verdin, Franchesca (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Watson, Ruby (California)
ED-CA-0019-0001
Wu, Stanley W. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Zweier, Lauren H. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bresee, Mark R. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Fekete, Frank J. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Kitabayashi, Mark K. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Simmons, Sloan R. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Yonehiro, Bruce L. (California)
ED-CA-0019-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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