Paso Robles school district responds to allegations of discrimination

December 4, 2021

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has launched an investigation into allegations that the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District discriminated against Latinos and non-English speakers, allegations the district denies.

On behalf of Paso People’s Action, the California Rural Legal Assistance and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area filed a complaint in June with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The complaint alleges the district discriminated against limited English proficient parents and community members by failing to communicate with them in Spanish at school board and advisory committee meetings.

In addition, the complaint alleges the district discriminated against Latino non-English proficient parents and community members by denying them the opportunity to become members of the 7-11 surplus property advisory committee.

In June 2020, amid budget shortfalls the district formed an advisory committee tasked with reviewing “a list of unused properties owned by the district and to make formal recommendations for their use in the future.” The committee, which was advisory only, ultimately went a step further, recommending the closure of Georgia Brown Elementary, which hosts an English-Spanish dual immersion program.

If 15 percent or more of public school students speak a primary language other than English, the school is required to send “all notices, reports, statements, or records sent to the parent or guardian” of those students in their primary language. While approximately 35% of Paso Robles students are English learners, the committee was comprised of English speaking members, leaving the question of whether an advisory committee tasked with compiling a list of unused properties was required to have bilingual  correspondence.

The civil rights complaint accuses the district of discriminating against Latino and English-learner students by way of the committee’s recommendation to close Georgia Brown Elementary and for not providing information about the advisory committee in English and Spanish.

In response to the allegation, district officials announced plans to continue the Spanish-English dual immersion program, even if they have to move it to another school.

“The district has conducted a series of public, transparent reviews of the possible closure of an elementary school and conducted significant community outreach on this topic, including holding meetings in Spanish and providing translation services,” the district responded. “That process is still ongoing and no decisions have been made by the board nor any votes taken.”

Additionally, the complaint alleges Paso Robles school board president Chris Arend made disparaging comments during a board meeting about Spanish-speaking parents.

During a Jan. 12, 2021 meeting, some members of the public addressed the board in Spanish, even though they spoke English. Arend asked those who spoke English to address the board in English.

“Under the California Constitution, the official language of the state of California is English, and we conduct our business in English,” Arend said. “We try to accommodate speakers who do not have sufficient command of English, but I want to remind everybody out there if you have sufficient command of English, please speak in a language that we understand, that is also under the constitution the official language of the state of California.”

In March 2021, the district began providing translations of all school board meetings in Spanish, and started allowing Spanish speaking members of the public additional time for public comment, along with translation services.

In addition, the district recently went through the process of changing its method of elections to ensure that Latino community members have the “opportunity to elect leaders they choose and to influence the outcome of elections through the California Voting Rights Act.”

“The district welcomes the opportunity to show evidence of our compliance with applicable law and engagement of all members of our school community in the governance of our district, the district said in a press release. “We have corrected already any deficiencies in that compliance. The district firmly denies any discrimination against Latino students or their families and has numerous initiatives to ensure participation of all members of our community.”


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Adam Trask

Since Chris Arend is still on that board, I would not be surprised if these allegations were true. He’s the guy who went out of his way, in a letter to CCN, to tell us all that there was absolutely zero racism in America today and that the idea of systemic racism was fabricated by a bunch of left-wingers.


Obviously, Arend is off his meds, or at least very poorly educated when it comes to America’s history of prejudice and discrimination. He should be recalled immediately. As California continues to be more diverse, we simply cannot tolerate white racists on our school boards.


commonsenseguy

Racism, prejudices, and discrimination is not limited to whites only. None of them should be tolerated from any ethnicity, and as a matter of fact, California has long ways to go with diversity for all. It is selective at best, and your comments prove that.


You make the claim that this guy is “off his meds”. Are you sharing a fact that you know, or is it a very poor and uneducated statement of discrimination and intolerance?


Cindy

After a group of people associated with BLM in San Luis Obispo, came to meetings saying they needed a translator for Spanish, the financially strapped school district started paying in March for a translator at every meeting. But those claiming they needed a translator never came back after getting their way.


Then you have the teacher who sent the photos of the anti-Biden sign to the Tribune, she was under fire for claiming she could not work during Covid while moonlighting and collecting unemployment. The children are the losers as this group of people lodges a political war while ignoring the needs of the children and the financial woes of the school. A lot of the parents are fed up.


Adam Trask

“financially strapped” That’s a laugher. The district has squandered a good deal of money over the years—on football coaches and other non-essential expenditures—and it should be intolerable that they cannot afford a Spanish translator at board meetings (something that has been common practice at most school board meetings in California for decades).


The children are the losers in a school district that is governed by white racists who have consistently mismanaged the district’s funding.


kevin rise

Cindy, you’re so wrong and so privaleged.


whoowhoo

I doubt it, the last time I called the front office at the high school, a lady answered in Spanish. The Latino population is treated very well.


kevin rise

Another slo county gov agency under federal investigation, makes sense. And it’s Paso, makes sense, where the Resnicks, poverty, violence and racism live side by side.


unusualsuspect

Can we really be expected to accommodate every single little facet and different type of person? Pretty futile iyam. At a certain point people need to adapt to the system rather than the other way around.


commonsenseguy

Here we go again. It never ends. This is getting so old and overused. Get a grip on reality people. The discrimination claim can be used for all ethnicities unless you’re a conservative that’s white, black, Hispanic or a Christian, in that case the discrimination and hate is acceptable. The truth is, it’s never acceptable. Good luck PRUSD.