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Parents’ group threatens to sue Santa Barbara Unified School District over curriculum

An attorney representing Fair Communities Education, a local parents’ group, may sue the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD).

“We are considering all of our legal options,” Eric Early, Managing Partner with Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae LLP, told our reporter Beth Farnsworth.

Early’s statement came one day after the SBUSD school board renewed its contract with Santa Barbara-based Just Communities, which provides diversity and sensitivity training, on a voluntary basis, to teachers and students.

The cost is nearly $300,000 dollars each school year. School board members, including Kate Parker, said lessons learned from the program are worth every cent.

“Just Communities has its own mission,” Parker said. “But the board brings it into the district in an effort to close the achievement gap, building equity and access to all of our educational programs and creating schools that are more inclusive. That’s not something we found we can do on our own. It’s been incredibly successful and it has just continued to build on itself.”

Members of Fair Communities Education, including Carpinteria resident Greg Gandrud, strongly oppose Just Communities’ message and believe the program’s lessons and wording amount to reverse racism.

“We’re opposed because we think it’s actually racist against white people,” Gandrud said. “Curriculum charts and illustrations … stating that racism is something white people do against brown people.”

Gandrud said he first heard about the controversial program, now in its eleventh year at SBUSD, about a month ago.

“What the Just Communties is doing is they’re pushing a program that teaches the students to be racist against white people, against men, and Christians and against capitalism,” Gandrud said.

“I’ve been through it and I did not find it to be anti-white or anti-Christian,” Parker said. “It’s actually very inclusive. It’s challenging. It’s hard. But these are hard conversations to have.”

Parker said the board pulled the item Tuesday night, not over any concerns over the bias training that they do, but to look at the contract more closely since the last evaluation happened in 2013.

“There are programs out there that are not quality and not good,” Parker said. “We just know that this one is.”

Gandrud and Early said they would like to see Just Communities’ materials made public.

“If they’re proud of their curriculum, let’s have all the parents be able to take a look at it,” Gandrud said.

Supporters of the curriculum, including Parker, liken that to a public posting of a textbook’s proprietary material or a restaurant’s blue-ribbon recipe.

“It’s really not our materials to do that,” Parker said, adding that legally, it is not required to be made public based on the specialized training.

Parker recommends people look at the company’s website if they want more information about the program.

Early sent the following statement to our newsroom Wednesday afternoon:

“We were disappointed by the Board’s rubberstamping yesterday of Just Communities’ contract for the new year. Just Communities’ agenda is fostering resentment, conflict, division and anger in the community. I have heard from many great citizens who oppose that organization. I again requested at yesterday’s school board meeting that the District put Just Communities’ written materials and agenda on the District’s website so that all of Santa Barbara’s citizens could see Just Communities for what it really is, for what it really teaches and for what the school Board unanimously supports – and also to put an end to Just Communities’ concerted effort to confuse the public by mentioning that some of its materials had supposedly been altered. Remarkably, the school board was told by Shawn Carey — a school employee who has worked in the past for Just Communities and who promotes its divisive agenda at every opportunity — that Just Communities’ materials could not be shown to the public. Here is one of many direct and outrageous quotes from their materials: “RACISM: A system of oppression based on race that privileges white people and targets people of color.” Good luck trying to find this definition in any legitimate dictionary. Just Communities’ materials are filled with similar such statements. We also demanded that if “implied bias training” must be provided by the schools, then the Board is required by law to submit the program to an open bidding process to allow the scores of people and companies that provide such training (without the racist agenda of JCCC), to bid on the work. Again the Board refused. We are considering all of our legal options.”

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