Poway Unified Addresses Allegations Of Racism Posted On Social Media
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / June 26, 2020
In the wake of hundreds of student testimonies, the school board passed a resolution on Thursday to reform hiring practices and curriculum.
Speaker 1: 00:00 This week, the Poway unified school district took a step forward in addressing the other major issue. That's been in the headlines for weeks. Systemic racism and Instagram accounts started by students of color has brought racial inequities to light by documenting incidents throughout the school district and in the South Bay evidence of financial fraud at the Sweetwater union high school district led to the school superintendent being put on administrative leave. Joining me with more on both these schools stories as KPBS education reporter Joe Hong, Joe. Welcome. Can you tell us about this Instagram account started by Poway students? Does it document many instances of racism?
Speaker 2: 00:43 Yeah, so the Instagram account is called black and PUSD it's, uh, started anonymously by some students and, um, teachers, students, really anyone affiliated with how a unified is able to submit sort of anonymous testimony about things they've witnessed, things they've experienced on, uh, on campuses. And so far I just checked, there are 352 posts, sort of, um, describing incidents of racism at schools.
Speaker 1: 01:14 What kinds of incidents does it include?
Speaker 2: 01:16 So it's really across the board. Um, you have racism between students, students using racial slurs and teachers not doing anything about it. Racism between teachers, uh, teachers being sort of saying, making insensitive comments about other teachers. And you also have some cases of just, uh, sort of inappropriate behavior, uh, inappropriate touching between teachers and students as well.
Speaker 1: 01:45 Part of the problem seems to be the lack of teachers of color at Poway unified. How does the makeup of the teaching staff compare with the students in Poway?
Speaker 2: 01:54 Yeah. So one of the things that really permeates a lot of these posts is that, uh, students and teachers often report these incidents of racism, but nothing ever happens. And a lot of these posts sort of attribute that to the lack of diversity among school staff. So at Palla unified, about 2% of students are African American that compare that to less than half a percent of teachers. Um, so to put that real numbers among the about 1600 teachers at Poway, only eight are African Americans in the whole district. And, uh, to look at the Latino population, um, about one in six students in the district is Latino. But compare that to only one in 20 teachers who are Latino in the district.
Speaker 1: 02:43 What's been the reaction of the Poway unified school board to these accounts of racist incidents in school.
Speaker 2: 02:49 Yeah, so the Powell unified school board passed the resolution last night, pledging to do more, to uphold and anti-racist at the district and to create new policies for hiring a more diverse staff. Um, I spoke with a school board member named Garcina Patel, who said, this is just the beginning. And she, she sincerely apologized to students who have recorded this type of behavior before, but saw no good outcomes.
Speaker 1: 03:20 We're going to do some deep reflection on confronting our internal biases. And we're going to look at that. There will be change well in the South Bay. Joe's now we have Sweetwater high school districts, financial troubles, and which continued this week, a state audit found evidence of fraud in the school's finances. What do they say is wrong?
Speaker 2: 03:42 So there were two primary findings was that back in 2017, the school districts gave teachers, um, a 3.75% raise without having all the information about the district's finances. So basically they weren't sure if they could afford this raise for teachers. And the second item was that the school board only went to one bond rating agency in 2018 to get a, a school bond measure passed in that election.
Speaker 1: 04:12 Why is requesting just one bond rating and issue?
Speaker 2: 04:16 Yeah. So when a school school board wants to pass a bond measure, you want to get multiple opinions and get different ratings. But the problem at Sweetwater was that the only ones, a one bond rating agency, and they also didn't provide complete information about the district's finances. On top of that,
Speaker 1: 04:35 A Sweetwater, a school superintendent, Karen Janney has now been put on paid administrative leave by the school board while the investigation continues. Why did the board do that? And who's going to continue to look into these allegations,
Speaker 2: 04:49 The specific reason for putting Jannie on lever or kind of unclear, they said the shooting place on leave to make for a more efficient investigation following the audit, the audit report. Um, but you know, if you sort of read between the lines, Karen Jannie was the superintendent. When these things happen at the school district and the district attorney's office, the state board of education, they're going to pursue more investigation and act upon the investigation that was, um, that was performed during the audit.
Speaker 1: 05:21 Meanwhile, Wednesday night, the Sweetwater board finalized the layoffs of 223 employees. When those layoffs were first announced, they were protested by many parents in the district. Is there any connection between the alleged fraud and the need for these layoffs?
Speaker 2: 05:39 Yeah. So the teachers who are laid off or the staff who were laid off will say that the financial problems at the district really started with those raises that the district really couldn't afford. So they, the audit just also found more broadly, um, evidence of just systemic mismanagement at the districts. And ultimately these layoffs are sort of the outcome of the financial mismanagement. I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter, Joe Hong and Joe. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 3: 06:23 [inaudible].