Skip to main content

ALERT: KPBS Radio is undergoing scheduled upgrade work which may result in temporary signal outages.

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Nearly 4,000 Children Separated At Border Under Trump Identified

Cover image for podcast episode

CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Above: In this March 30, 2021, file photo, minors lie inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, in Donna, Texas.

While children continue to come to the U.S. unaccompanied, the Biden Administration announced it has accounted for 3,900 children separated during the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy on illegal crossings. Plus, the San Diego Police department has unveiled a new list of procedures for its interactions with transgender and non-binary individuals. And the move to close a North County group home for foster children has put a spotlight on foster care in San Diego County. KPBS looks at how the system is changing. Then, two small water districts in North County think they can get water cheaper by breaking away from San Diego County Water Authority. Also, some teenagers stuck at home during COVID-19 reflected on traumatic experiences in highschool, with hundreds sharing their stories on social media. Finally, has “cancel culture” gotten away from accountability and is it being used as a weapon? A San Diego Union Tribune columnist says it’s time to retire the phrase.

Speaker 1: 00:01 A new accounting of the children impacted by family separation.

Speaker 2: 00:04 We have gotten some or unified some still remain to be reunified, but we won't stop till we find every last year.

Speaker 1: 00:10 I'm Andrew Bowen with Jade Heinemann Maureen Kavanaugh is off. This is KPBS day edition. The San Diego police department is out with new guidelines on how to interact with trans people.

Speaker 2: 00:30 Um, we want to make sure that all of our police officers are respecting our communities at all times

Speaker 1: 00:35 And fights over water rates are escalating in North County. Two local water districts are trying to break free. Plus should cancel culture be canceled that's ahead on KPBS midday edition,

Speaker 3: 01:01 A five-year-old child was left alone this morning, along the border wall, near San Ysidro. That's according to us customs and border patrol agents who took the child identified as a Guatemala national to a border patrol facility, while children continue to come to the us without their parents, the Biden administration today announced it has accounted for 3,900 children separated as part of the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy on illegal crossings, legal aren't, who is deputy director of the ACL use immigrants rights project is the lead attorney in the ongoing lawsuit to reunite these children with their families. He joins me now with more Lee welcome.

Speaker 2: 01:42 Thanks for having me. There's a discrepancy

Speaker 3: 01:44 With the count of children. The Biden administration says they're accounting for versus the original count of children. The ACL you identified in a prior lawsuit, what's the reason for this discrepancy?

Speaker 2: 01:56 Well, so the reason is because the government has excluded for the time being parents, who they believe they have criminal histories. And so we have noted, and I don't think the government disputes, this, that there were more than 5,500 children separated and probably more we'll ultimately find out. But the government has said at least 3,900 are clearly fall within what they want to do with the settlement. And they're looking at the other 1700. We hope that they will conclude that those 1700 do not have the type of crimes that would prohibit them from engaging in this sediment. We don't think we have looked at that and we think that exclusion of the 1700 is wrong. We hope the government will ultimately reach that same conclusion and we're in negotiations with them about that. But that's the discrepancy

Speaker 3: 02:43 Number of children. The Biden administration has identified how many have actually been reunited with their families or to a legal guardian.

Speaker 2: 02:51 So since the Biden administration took over only four families have been reunited, maybe five. At this point, as we're talking, we're hopeful that about three dozen more will be reunited in the next few weeks, but there's still a lot to go. And so, you know, ultimately it's good. The task force is up and running. The process seems to be up and running after a lot of negotiations with us, but there's a lot of work to be done. We believe between 1,002 thousand families needs to come back. But beyond that, there are families who are already reunited that need help. They need mental health services. They need other types of social services. Most importantly, they need legal, permanent status. So they don't have to live in fear of being sent back to danger. They've already suffered enough trauma in our country, owes them this. At this point in the president of the United States came out and said, this is in a storage and a stored moral standing on the United States. Given that I think we need to do everything possible to try and make these families whole to the extent that's possible. You

Speaker 3: 03:47 Know, today's news also includes information about where the children are coming from mostly Guatemala, just this week. The vice-president was in Guatemala with a message to migrants, not to come to the U S what needs to be done in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and elsewhere, that would STEM the flow of migrants coming to the U S

Speaker 2: 04:07 Well, I think we always want to get at the root causes because people do not want to have to pick up and leave their home countries, not withstanding what the narrative may be. In some circles. People want stay at home. One of the drag, their kids, thousands of miles to a foreign country and have to start their lives all over away from their families. But I think what's critical to understand about what the vice-president is saying in Guatemala is that's the wrong message to be sending, because you have to say to people, if you're in danger, now our border is open. And so while we ultimately want the long-term solution of trying to get at the root cause in those countries, the immediate problem is that the Biden administration has retained a Trump administration policy of closing the border to families who are in desperate need of safe date.

Speaker 2: 04:56 We can not with this country be out there saying, even if you're in danger, don't come. I mean, you note that the vice-president, didn't say if you're in danger come, but otherwise you need to wait until there may be a process for you. We need to be saying the border is open to asylum seekers. I mean, if the Biden administration continues to close the border of asylum seekers, we're talking about our sea change in American history. We have said after world war two, we would never close our borders to people fleeing danger. Trump administration did that. And now the Biden ministration has retained that. So I would have hoped the vice-president would have said right now, if you're in danger, you can come and get a stylist. But unfortunately that's not the case. And the vice president's out there saying nobody should come.

Speaker 3: 05:41 There are still nearly 400 children whose families have not been found. What can you tell us about where those children are now and how they're doing? I

Speaker 2: 05:50 Feel you and a steering committee. We created have been looking for the separated families for years. We are down the last 391. We're hoping we make more progress. The children are almost all in the U S we believe about two thirds of those parents are abroad. Maybe a third are in the United States are confident. We will ultimately find those families. We're hoping to vitamin nutrition gives us more data. And with COVID receding in various places, we're hoping more on the ground. Searches can occur and we won't stop till we find those last vendor. 91, we have found hundreds and hundreds of families, and we have gotten some or unified some still remain to be reunified, but we won't stop till we find every last child.

Speaker 3: 06:33 As I mentioned, just this morning, a five-year-old was found along the border wall, near San Ysidro and more unaccompanied children are being seen in other States. Why are we seeing such an increase in cases where children are being found, wandering completely

Speaker 2: 06:48 The Biden administration, exit exempted unaccompanied minors from the Trump administration's policy of what's called a title 42 policy of not allowing them in, but the by administration has retained the policy with respect to families. So families are now making that agonizing choice of, do I keep my child with me here in danger, or do I make this horrible decision to send my child alone? Because at least my child will be safe. So it's sort of this forced self separation where children are coming by themselves. And beyond that, I think there's been a backlog with the Trump administration with not allowed children fleeing danger in for so long will ultimately get through that backlog. But in the meantime that Biden ministration needs to immediately repeal the title 42 policy because families are in real danger in Mexico, and we are not letting them in. We are not even giving them a hearing. They get no asylum hearing whatsoever. We were just saying a family's evil, small children. It doesn't matter how much danger you fled. You can not have an asylum hearing that has to stop.

Speaker 3: 07:52 I've been speaking with legal, learned the deputy director of the ACL use immigrants rights project Lee, thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: 07:59 Thanks for having me and for shining a light on this issue.

Speaker 1: 08:15 June is pride month across the country and the San Diego police department has chosen this month to unveil a new list of procedures for its interactions, with transgender and non-binary individuals, the guidelines range from making sure police use the proper pronouns and addressing members of the public to ensuring that transgender individuals have access to their medications while in police custody. Joining me is the San Diego police. Department's LGBTQ liaison officer Christine Garcia, officer Garcia, welcome to the program. Thank

Speaker 2: 08:46 You for having me. I really appreciate being here. I

Speaker 1: 08:49 Mentioned a couple of the highlights in that intro of this new department policy. What are some other changes that you think are especially important?

Speaker 2: 08:57 Yeah, so there's lots of changes that are addressed in this policy and procedure. One thing that was important that you mentioned was, um, how to address the community. So it is a combination with training that we're conducting within the San Diego police department. Um, our standing of police officers have all received the LGBT, uh, Q training since 1986. However, we saw that there was a need to give some update training, right? So the training that occurred in 1986 is going to be different than the what's required and needed nowadays. So we have all of our officers, uh, including officers from around the County who are attending, um, what's called advanced officer training. It's a T for short, and that is mandatory training that each officer has to go through every two years. And this AOT cycle, we have decided to add in three hours of LGBT update training.

Speaker 2: 09:49 And along with that training came the policy and procedure. And that is how to address the LGBT community, specifically the transgender and gender non-binary community, because, you know, within society, sometimes non-binary can be such a relatively new thing that people don't really know what the pronouns are for it. So it addresses the pronoun usage for our non binary community and our transgender community, um, spells out to the officers how they should be treating and respecting our community as well as strictly prohibit some prima facia evidence that, uh, some of the community was concerned about such as using somebodies transgender status to believe that they're involved in sex work. So that was added in there. So that way we can make sure that no officers are doing not. And then all the way to Pat down searches, looking at of a transgender individual, including, uh, filling out the police report, making sure that that continuum of treatment is carried through even through to the police report. So that way anybody who hits up the police report a detective, a district attorney, a defense attorney, anybody can pick up that report and continue using the proper pronouns with that individual.

Speaker 1: 10:57 And you mentioned the Pat downs and, um, and some of the other guidelines, because some of them, I found rather surprising. Uh, one of these says, officers cannot conduct a search or Pat down solely for the purpose of determining a person's anatomical sex. And some, uh, another, as you mentioned, says, you know, gender expression cannot be used as evidence that this person is engaged in prostitution. Were these actual problems, and w is that why SDPD decided to write them down in an official policy?

Speaker 2: 11:26 Well, I had not seen that the sex work portion was an actual problem within the San Diego police department. However, there is a number of the community that does believe that that problem exists within the San Diego police department and that, um, anecdotal data presented to them, um, through individual lived experiences, they felt that that was occurring. So we went ahead and added it into our policy and procedure to make sure that if that is occurring, um, that be strictly prohibited and dealt with as far as the gowns and searches of an individuals, transgender that Pat down or search will be conducted in accordance with that person's gender identity, not their genitalia. In fact, most of the policy prohibits the officer from even asking questions about their genitalia anymore. So I'll give you a little background. The San Diego County Sheriff's department is responsible for housing of transgender individuals when they are booked into jail.

Speaker 2: 12:21 Um, in October, 2019, the San Diego County Sheriff's department changed its procedure in housing, according to gender identity, instead of sex, because that's what used to happen for a very long time. We have since updated our policy and procedure to make sure that we are not only recognizing that person's gender identity, but bringing them to the facility, which corresponds with their gender identity. So no more do we have to ask the genitalia question and bringing that person to a facility which matches their sex. And if we don't know about their gender, um, there's no reason to conduct Pat downs for searches, uh, to confirm any type of gender because gender and sex are two completely different aspects to who somebody is. And that also goes along with part of our training, right? Which is the difference between sex, gender orientation, and also expression, how you put that together and express yourself trans

Speaker 1: 13:15 And non binary folks can be witnesses to crimes. Uh, they can be suspects, and of course they can be victims. And I should explain for our listeners, for anyone who's not familiar with the term, non-binary refers to people who identify as neither male nor female. What is the goal of putting these guidelines into official policy?

Speaker 2: 13:34 I'll, I'll, I'll be quite honest with you. I, I do take the policy a little personal, and the reason why is because I'm by myself, I'm a transgender woman. I came out as transgender in 2015 and, um, transitioned on the department after working on the apartment for eight years as male law enforcement is something that I've always enjoyed and loved and having a family within law enforcement and a family within the LGBT community. I want to make sure that our officers, my other siblings are respecting my other siblings on the other side, right? So I want to make sure that, that our law enforcement is treating our communities with dignity and respect. And it's not just the LGBT community, but it's all communities, um, are people of color or LGBT community doesn't matter what your religious background is or, um, or identity. Um, we want to make sure that all of our police officers are respecting our communities at all times, and there's a different aspect to the transgender and gender non binary community, right? It's not so cut and dry. And we knew that a purse teacher in, uh, helping the officers conduct those interactions respectfully, and then also a procedure to hold officers accountable for when those procedures are violated. Um, we recognize need for that and then training to go along with it.

Speaker 1: 14:53 How were these new guidelines developed?

Speaker 2: 14:55 So we have, what's called a chief's advisory board. Um, and it's the community stakeholders, uh, within the LGBT community that come and meet with our chief, uh, by yearly. And they discuss some of the issues that are going on within the community. Um, they brought forth the idea of having these policy and procedures actually back in 2014, um, where then Lieutenant Dan Meyer was, uh, the LGBT liaison before I even came out as transgender. And he actually developed a, a list of procedures for interactions with the transgender community. And that was released on a training bulletin back in 2014. So we had current standing policy and procedure, but when we reviewed it as the advisory board, we saw that it was slightly outdated. Things have kind of changed within the community. And so what we did was we added the language for non-binary and in there. And then also, um, just brought some of the terminology up to today's standard. And then we also changed it into a full fledged procedure and of a training bulletin. Um, so that way it's, it's permanently on file. Um, it can never expire and it's, it's there for the officer's viewing

Speaker 1: 16:05 Say San Diego falls in the speed or willingness to adopt these guidelines, have other departments come and done this well before us, are we on the cutting edge edge?

Speaker 2: 16:16 Well, um, I'm not really too sure which department developed their own procedures first, but I know that the city of San Francisco police department has had a set of policy and procedures for the last decade or so. Um, and there's also been other police departments along the last few years that have slowly been adopting, um, new policy and procedures with the interaction of the transgender community. You know, I'll be quite honest, we're, we're a little late in the game, getting it out there. But, uh, the great thing about it is, is, is we have it out there. It's now been published. It was, uh, we, we wanted it done as quick as possible. I saw through to its success, um, into getting published. And so we're doing really good with the training and the policy procedure that we've implemented. I've

Speaker 1: 17:01 Been speaking with Christine Garcia, LGBTQ liaison officer for the San Diego police department and officer Garcia. Thank you. I thank you very much for having me. You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Andrew Bowen with Jade Heinemann Maureen Kavanaugh has the day off the move to close a North County group home for foster children has put a spotlight on foster care in San Diego County KPBS reporter. Tonya Thorne has a look at how the system is changing, especially after COVID-19

Speaker 4: 17:37 In 2015, the assembly passed a bill to eliminate most group homes for foster youth. The ultimate goal was to maintain a stable permanent family for foster children, congregate care. The use of group homes was to be limited to short term interventions. That's something Theresa Stiver says her organization did decades ago.

Speaker 5: 17:56 When we see the, the youth who enter our program at 18 from a group home, the majority of them don't have a GED. They have no life skills whatsoever. They don't know how to live independently or even out in the community. They've been told what to do every day, every minute of their lives,

Speaker 4: 18:13 Right? Stibers is the CEO of Walden family services. She says when her foster care agency was established in 1976, they only worked with group homes.

Speaker 5: 18:23 We changed very quickly, um, to move into foster care in a family situation, because if we don't teach these children to learn how to live in a family situation, when they're young, when are they going to learn, it's going to be much more beneficial to them as they get older

Speaker 4: 18:41 Raja Gainey was born into the foster care system and spent his childhood living in different places between

Speaker 6: 18:47 Seven to 11 at went through probably, um, I want to say around nine or 10 different foster homes and probably maybe four or five different schools, I've been in a couple of different group homes by that time.

Speaker 4: 18:58 Yeah. He says that through his experience, he preferred the family setting over the group, home, just

Speaker 6: 19:03 The environment. It was more so just kind of like summer camp, extended summer camp. And, you know, that's fun for a kid, but for my education, it really suffered. Um, I had challenges when I was moving back to certain foster homes. I was moving to the new new schools. Um, so obviously if you're somewhere for an extended period of time, once you get back to your regular, um, routine, it's a challenge

Speaker 4: 19:27 At 11 years old Gainey found stability. When he got referred to Walden family services, you really

Speaker 6: 19:33 Supported, you know, me and making sure that I was stable. And then also when it came time for me to transition out of foster care, which was a challenge, um, Walden really stepped up and tried to find as many resources and opportunities to help me and other kids get out.

Speaker 4: 19:50 He is now on the board for Walden family services has a family of his own and has stayed in touch with his mentor for 26 years. Walden offers a treatment team that helps individualize what each case needs work. That didn't stop because of the pandemic. We

Speaker 5: 20:05 Continued to place children during the pandemic. We placed children who had COVID and our nurse came up with a plan. The families agreed to quarantine. So we worked nonstop as essential workers. It didn't stop for us just because of the panic.

Speaker 4: 20:19 Stiver says she expects the entire child welfare system will be busier than ever this next year due to the aftermath of the pandemic. Well, we're

Speaker 5: 20:27 Very concerned. Um, you know, children are being seen for the first time in over 12 months, they're being seen by all the mandated reporters, whether they're in the doctor's offices, they're in sports, they're in the schools. So a huge number of children are entering into the foster care system due to all of the stress and abuse and neglect that's happened during the pandemic.

Speaker 4: 20:46 Another for the system is the expansion of foster care to youth aged 18 to 21, Stiver says more resources, donations and foster families are always needed. Tonya Thorne, KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 21:11 San Diego County is in a drought. So it should be no surprise that water is getting more expensive. So expensive. In fact, that two small water districts in North County say they can get it cheaper by breaking away from their parent agency, the rainbow municipal water district and Fallbrook public utility district want to exit the San Diego County water authority and join another water district based in Riverside County. Joining me to explain what that means is KPBS North County, multimedia producer, Alex, when Alex welcome. Thank you, Andrew. So these two water districts say that water is just too expensive in San Diego County. What makes them think they can get it for less money by joining a different agent agency? So

Speaker 7: 21:55 They want to join a Riverside agency called the Eastern municipal water district. Tom Kennedy with the rainbow municipal water district says the difference between Eastern municipal and the sinew County water authority is about $600 per acre foot. And the reason why other agencies may be cheaper right now, according to the water authority is because they have not made the same improvement on water reliability, and they are also in the process of making those same improvements. So the difference in cost over time may be negligible.

Speaker 1: 22:28 Explain a bit more about how these water agencies are structured. It seems like there are just multiple layers of government that are stacked on top of each other. These are two local water districts. What's the difference between those water districts and then this larger agency, the San Diego County water authority?

Speaker 7: 22:45 Well, the San Diego County water authority is a wholesaler. They buy water from other sources, such as the Colorado river or water from up North, and then sell it to a water districts within the County, for example, rainbow and Fallbrook, and also the city of San Diego. And there are about 24, four districts within the County of San Diego.

Speaker 1: 23:07 So we know that agriculture is the top water user in these two smaller districts, Fallbrook and rainbow. Uh, you spoke with an avocado farmer in North County for this reporting. What are his thoughts on this proposal of breaking away from the San Diego County water authority?

Speaker 7: 23:23 This particular form of that I talked to was a bit ambivalent about it. He says a reduction in rates would be great, but not if it costs more with the associated fees, such as the exit fees, the, uh, the fees that the San Diego County water authority is asking rainbow and Fallbrook to pay for, for all the improvements they've made on their behalf. So that's of where the tricky issue is. And I get a sense that's what a lot of farmers in that Eric is kind of feeling as well. Yeah, they would love to have reduced costs, but is worried what this might mean. If there's going to be a protective fight within the water authority and these two smaller agencies.

Speaker 1: 24:03 So these explain a bit more about what these exit fees are actually paying for the County water authority has been making improvements to water infrastructure, uh, and they've signed these long-term contracts. So why would it be that these smaller districts when they leave, have to pay a fee to, to make up for those costs? Well, cause

Speaker 7: 24:21 They say that they've made this on behalf of everyone when they enter into these obligations to enter it on behalf of all 24 agencies and all 24 agencies have voted on it. Of course not everybody voted for it, but the majority did. So therefore it's a shared cost across the region. And that's the reason why they want to be, to make sure that rainbow and Fallbrook pay for it. That does not necessarily mean if the detachment process is approved, that rainbow and Fallbrook will have to pay for it is up to the local agency that is determining whether they can detach or not to dis to determine whether they need to pay or not. But the water authority is arguing that this is good for the whole entire region. We made this for everybody. And if they leave, that means everyone else has to pick up the tab. And it's not fair for everyone else.

Speaker 1: 25:15 Part of the disagreement here just seems to be about cross subsidization. So the idea that these North County water customers are paying for infrastructure that is elsewhere in the County and that they might not be actually benefiting from. Is that right? Yeah.

Speaker 7: 25:30 So rainbow and Fallbrook says, it's not fair that, you know, all these improvements are happening down South, which is benefiting the people down South and not the customers in the North. The water authority is counter arguing since yet, these improvements such as the desalination plant in Carlsbad and the raising of the seventh century dam is down South, but it also helps the people up North because during drought years, such as the one here, they can pull from those sources for the people down South freeing up the waters that is important from the North for the people in the North. So it balances out the system. So no one system is getting taxed. So either way it helps the people in the North, as well as the South.

Speaker 1: 26:15 What will it take for these two water districts to formally break free from the County water authority and join a different agency?

Speaker 7: 26:23 It's it's at the hands of, what's known as the local agency formation commission, and they are a mediator when the two eight, when different public agencies have disagreements and they kind of settle the dispute. So right now what they're doing is they're looking at issues and they can weigh it and they can make the decision. And that decision an expected until, you know, at the end of this year around fall or so after that, it's just not a done deal. Voters will then get to decide. And the central County water authority wants the whole entire County to vote on this while the Fallbrook and a rainbow just want their customers to vote on it. And that this issue is also being decided by LAFCo.

Speaker 1: 27:06 I've been speaking with KPBS, North County, multimedia producer, Alex, when Alex, thanks for your reporting on this. I thank you very much.

Speaker 3: 27:19 So schools across California shut down last year, teenagers were stuck at home and for some that meant months alone to reflect on experiences of trauma in high school, but they didn't all keep that pain to themselves. Instead, hundreds of young people turn to social media to share their stories. K Q E D, reporter Holly J McDean to talk to students in Los Gatos and San Diego County about what it's been like to push for change on campus. During distance learning,

Speaker 8: 27:57 Lynn has played the flute since she was 10 years old. And it's a big part of her identity. Music is how she stays calm. Especially

Speaker 9: 28:05 In high school band was like my, the main thing in my life. Like all my friends were in band, everything revolved around band. It was like, I don't know, definitely very important to

Speaker 8: 28:14 Me only using her middle name to protect her privacy. Lynn is a senior at Mira Mesa high school in San Diego County. And she's taking on a lot for any teenager. She's running an Instagram account called me to in SD where students anonymously share experiences of harassment and assault.

Speaker 9: 28:32 I mean, I kind of started, I wouldn't say a trend, but the movement at my school.

Speaker 8: 28:40 So she was in an abusive relationship with a boy. She started dating when she was a sophomore. She says he would pressure her into sending explicit photos and that he sexually assaulted her. He denies the allegations. Lynn says she wishes she had better education around what healthy relationships are supposed to look like. All

Speaker 9: 28:59 My friends, they tried very hard to get me to leave. I just, I didn't want to listen because, you know, I was gaslighted to the point where I thought, Oh, I means, you know, he loves me or whatever, which obviously is not true. But when you're in it like that, it feels like it is true.

Speaker 8: 29:18 After the relationship ended in 2019, her mom found diary entries on Lynn's phone, describing the abuse and reported the ex-boyfriend to the school. Lynn and her ex boyfriend were both in band,

Speaker 10: 29:30 But there were times where, you know, there was a concert and I walk into the storage room who's right there. And I just left. I couldn't be there. And in the hallways and the library, I still had to see him.

Speaker 8: 29:44 The ex-boyfriend says he was never disciplined. The school district declined to comment on the case, citing privacy laws, but said that allegations of assault are taken seriously. Last summer, Lynn saw an Instagram account set up for San Diego students to share stories of sexual abuse that made her feel comfortable sharing hers to her. Ex-boyfriend saw her post and let the carton of eggs outside her house. She says, if that was the worst that could happen, there was no reason to be afraid.

Speaker 9: 30:14 So that's when I decided like, okay, he does not have this power over.

Speaker 8: 30:18 She went from posting her own story to running the me too in SD Instagram page. It has over 1300 followers. Many of the posts include the names of alleged perpetrators, both students and teachers. The stories are posted anonymously and have not been verified. Lynn says, she's received threats for running the account.

Speaker 9: 30:38 If I stop, then that's letting them win. And I refuse to do that. So I just kept going

Speaker 8: 30:45 Spokesperson with the San Diego unified school district. So the district has made police aware of the account and that allegations made anonymously are difficult to investigate. The spokesperson said the district has also worked with student leaders to get the word out about how to recognize and report abuse. People are still sending Lynn their stories.

Speaker 11: 31:07 It took away all of my firsts without considering my consent. I dropped

Speaker 8: 31:10 Out of band the following year because I just felt like no one was on my side. I felt bad. And I didn't tell him to stop because I was scared that he would be mad at me. Occasionally she takes breaks from reading the post for the sake of her own mental health. There are dozens of accounts like me too, in SD, throughout California, including one for students in the affluent Silicon Valley town of Los Gatos

Speaker 11: 31:38 From the outside. LG is idyllic, perfect teams and perfect clothes from perfect families. Don't forget the money, but like most seemingly perfect things. You just can't see the cracks yet.

Speaker 8: 31:53 That's from a film made by a Los Gatos high school senior about the me too campaign happening at our school school.

Speaker 11: 31:59 The post read, I'm not sharing this post for sympathy, but to be heard earlier this year on February 8th, I was raped

Speaker 8: 32:08 That post other students to share their stories and eventually set up their own Instagram account. Since then more than 100 students and alums have shared their experiences with harassment and assault, the entire senior class guys and girls made chance with my name shaming me. And in that moment, I truly wanted to be dead. I didn't want to tell my friends because I was afraid. They would think I was making the whole thing up. Believe it or not. I ended up apologizing to him. After that encounter. We always find a way to blame ourselves in response to the wave of stories. Online Los Gatos high school students held a rally on the football field last July,

Speaker 10: 33:00 But I believe where it's housed power. And if saying this out loud gives others reason too as well. Then I will

Speaker 8: 33:07 Abby Berry. She graduated from Los Gatos high school in 2018. She's one of the organizers of a new advocacy group from survivors for survivors. She looked out at the football field and told everyone she was a survivor.

Speaker 10: 33:21 Yeah, I'm a survivor of sexual assault, harassment and rape. And I still believe in the power of words. Thank you.

Speaker 8: 33:29 Unlike the San Diego County, Los Gatos students didn't name perpetrators online, but student organizers say there was still a lot of pushback in response to the attention they were bringing to the football team. Abby says athletes are glorified at the school and that allowed them to get away with abuse. Last summer, Abby wrote an email calling on the school to confront its rape culture.

Speaker 12: 33:51 And my mom didn't want me to send it. She was like, you could get in trouble or like you could get faced backlash. And I remember literally being like, I don't care. This is an issue. And I was so angry. I was just so I was just livid. I was enraged. She

Speaker 8: 34:08 Sent the email to all Los Gatos staff and wrote the entire community was complicit in these issues. After she sent it one teacher and football coach replied all he wrote wrong. If this young lady has had something bad, happened to her in the past, she should take it up with the individual who is responsible.

Speaker 12: 34:27 And that was just really disappointing. It really just pointing to like here teachers and advisors at the school, taking sides,

Speaker 8: 34:35 The teacher did not respond to request for comment. Abby worries about the students who face backlash and lost friends for speaking out.

Speaker 12: 34:43 Well, that's why I kept saying like, please, like if you get backlash, just send it to me because like, you guys are still in school and I know how much reputation counts in high school. And I know how much it just means. Jackie, once you get to college. And I just, I knew like I was really scared for them.

Speaker 8: 35:04 Megan Farrell is the district's title, nine coordinator. She handles complaints related to sexual abuse. She says the count has been divisive, but she says, it's also made the district aware. Some students feel like they're not doing enough.

Speaker 13: 35:17 It, it it's important. The voices of students, if they don't want to come to us, I think we have to understand why that is, but we also need to know what what's being complained about in order for us to do our jobs.

Speaker 8: 35:29 She says there are many reasons. Young people are reluctant to turn to their schools to report abuse. They might not be ready to tell their or want to talk to the police who schools have an obligation to tell. There were no title, nine complaints filed against students in the district and the 20, 19 to 2020 school year. And only two. This school year Farrell says in response to the account, the district set up an anonymous tip line so

Speaker 13: 35:55 That students would have another outlet to reach out and, um, provide any kind of information that they needed to provide to us. And anonymous reports are difficult to investigate, but if we have some information, at least we can go down a road and start looking into a matter

Speaker 8: 36:11 In an email to family members. The superintendent said the district had launched an inquiry into whether the district has a culture that allows abuse to continue. The district has also hired a consultant focused on restorative justice to give community members impacted by these issues. A chance to talk. Abby Barry says, she knows real change will take a long time and a lot of persistence. And she says, if nothing else, the online movement has at least started a conversation that wasn't happening before.

Speaker 12: 36:40 I know that like, regardless of the fact that like, we may have not been able to like change policies or like move mountains for the school. We got the town talking about it. We definitely like shocked the town. Um, but I think it like changed even in a little bit better

Speaker 8: 37:06 In Mira Mesa, Lynn is still running the San Diego account. Her mom says, she's proud of how much she's seen her daughter grow. We're not using her name to protect her identity. I really am grateful that she found the strength to help other people in middle school and high school. She retreated a bed, but in our household she's always had a voice. And I think she's finding it again. Lynn never returned to school in person, her senior year. And a big reason for that decision is because she didn't want to confront abusers in person. She's headed to college in the fall and plan to continue to advocate for victims there.

Speaker 9: 37:47 So I would like to still, you know, be involved with this account and maybe transform it into something bigger or, you know, brought in, you know, the audience of this account. Um, so yeah, I definitely want to keep going with it

Speaker 8: 38:02 Now. She's encouraging others at her school to start a club to address sexual assault on campus. The students leading these efforts are hoping the support networks they've built online can find a way to continue in person. When more students returned to school. I'm Holly, Jamie Dede.

Speaker 11: 38:26 [inaudible],

Speaker 3: 38:29 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Andrew Bowen. Maureen Kavanaugh has the off these days. We hear a lot about cancel culture. When someone who's done or said something damaging is deep platformed fired or boycotted. In other words, they're held accountable, but has canceled culture gotten away from accountability. And is it being used as a weapon San Diego union Tribune columnist, Charles Clark says yes. And it's time to retire the phrase in a recent column. I spoke with him about his ideas on cancel culture. Here's that interview.

Speaker 2: 39:04 So, okay. First let's

Speaker 3: 39:05 Define what it means to cancel someone or something and how that term grew in popularity.

Speaker 2: 39:12 It's so it's kind of fascinating because the term of canceling someone isn't in itself a relatively new term, I mean really how I was familiar with it. It's kind of black culture and black Twitter. And usually there, it was used in more of a, a joking term. We start early on is kind of a, I'm not gonna, you know, deal with this person anymore in the time, since that has grown into something a bit different where I think kind of, we commonly think of it more as kind of a cultural boycott kind of this way, as typically using social media to call out a person, usually a public figure or a business that you feel behaved in a way that was inappropriate. And we

Speaker 3: 39:52 Know that after sufficient dragging black Twitter has been known to cancel someone over an offense. Uh, but then the phrase changed to cancel culture. And so did its meaning. Can you talk about that? I mean, who hijacked the

Speaker 2: 40:06 Term? It's kind of a fascinating thing, right? I feel like you start hearing the phrase, cancel culture a bit more kind of around the time of the me too movement, but because canceling someone became a public way to kind of police, you know, frankly, predatory men who otherwise would not have been held accountable or haven't been held accountable right. For decades. Now, somewhere along the way, though, in particular conservative media, kind of co-opted this phrase, cancel culture to be more about, Oh, the stifling of conservative speech or people infringing on free speech to, you know, be the thought police, right. And prevent people from saying something that they disagree with. If you do, then you're, ex-communicated right from the public sphere. And really, I think that is probably part of a larger trend, right? Where you've seen conservative media really loves this idea of, you know, the quote culture war

Speaker 3: 41:01 And your column. You know, as you mentioned, you say, Republicans have weaponized the term to, to criticize people on the left and to equate, cancel culture with an attack on freedom of speech pushed by an overly sensitive, angry mob. Uh, can you give me some examples of how the term has been weaponized recently?

Speaker 2: 41:19 Typically the way that I see it used by conservatives with that negative connotation is usually in a defense of someone who's on their side, who people are trying to police, you know, Donald Trump, even during his impeachment, had his attorney talk about this is canceled culture. You know, you've had Marjorie Taylor green go off on that and conservatives defend her, you know, including, I believe our own rep Darryl Eissa where, you know, the things that she said and done to me, you know, across the line of, it's not just that it's offensive speech, it's an actual harmful speech, um, and potentially threatening and dangerous to people. Can

Speaker 3: 41:57 You give me an example of when the collective outrage was warranted? When did someone, or even a business need to be canceled in order to usher in change?

Speaker 2: 42:07 I hate to keep bringing it back to me too, but I do think that was a really salient and for the most part, pretty successful application of this

Speaker 3: 42:15 Cancel culture. Isn't the first term to sort of be hijacked. I mean, you've got now woke culture and PC police. Um, it seems like this is sort of, there's a pattern and that this is a tactic to weaponize criticism. It

Speaker 2: 42:31 Is, it very much is. I mean, and I think that's the thing that kind of drives me nuts about it. You know, I originally said that I don't think cancel culture is a real thing, namely, because generally it applies to public figures and often public figures who are quote canceled usually are able to, you know, have the impact on their professional lives. Be very limited, right? They're usually able to go into another gig. I think of Gina Carano, uh, who was fired from, you know, the Mandalorian series who I think within a day had signed like a movie deal with Ben. Shapiro's like daily mail, you know, where you actually do see it have real impact as you think of people like say Colin Kaepernick, Colin Kaepernick was blackballed by the NFL and still hasn't found a career. It's like he did face real professional consequences and harm because let's be honest, predominantly white people and conservatives decided that they were off.

Speaker 2: 43:23 He wanted to kneel during the national Anthem to call attention to racial injustice and police brutality. Um, they tried to make it about disrespecting the flag and they, you know, found a receptive partner in the NFL who is a conservative leaning organization to begin with who were more than willing to partner up in excommunicating this guy. I actually think of, you know, an older example is, uh, the band formerly known as the Dixie chicks who, you know, had their career at the peak of their powers professionally just ruined and thrown into shambles because during a concert in Europe, Natalie Maines, their lead singer express expressed her displeasure with George Bush. I believe she said something to the effect of I'm ashamed. He's a Texan. And they express their opposition to the invasion of Iraq. What

Speaker 3: 44:12 Should people think about before they start screaming? Cancel culture?

Speaker 2: 44:20 I think the question I would ask myself is, okay, what are these people really upset about? Because if you cut through some of the bad actors and the noise that like to jump into these things, there's sometimes as a grain of truth, even if you feel you're being unjustly gone after, um, on the flip side, just as a public observer, I think the question we all should be asking ourselves any time this topic comes up, you know, people want someone quote, canceled. I think you should ask, do I want them canceled because they caused real harm or do I want them canceled? Cause they said something I don't like. I've

Speaker 3: 44:55 Been speaking with Charles Clark columnist at the San Diego union Tribune. Charles, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for having me.

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.