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Flags lowered to half-staff at County Administration Building after Texas school shooting

 May 25, 2022 at 5:01 PM PDT

S1: The impact of the Texas shooting on schools and on mental health.
S2: Repetitive exposure to these types of traumatic events can create by virtue of vicarious trauma.
S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. This is KPBS Midday Edition. COVID cases increase again after a short period of decline.
S3: It's unpredictable , and that's what we have to keep in mind. That's why we need to pull out all the stops.
S1: Encrypted messages between government employees may run afoul of the Public Records Act , and the loss of parts of the Voting Rights Act affects more than the ballot box. That's ahead on Midday Edition. First , the news. The FBI has joined the investigation into the massacre at Robb Elementary in Texas. Authorities say all 21 victims killed , 19 children and two adults were shot in the same classroom. A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety says the shooter , armed with a rifle , pushed past security officers at the school and barricaded himself inside the classroom. The names of the victims , mostly nine and ten year olds , are beginning to be released. This mass shooting comes only ten days after the racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket. And it's made many Americans of all races wonder how safe are we , our families , our kids in our daily lives ? Joining me is Bob Mueller , interim director of student attendance , safety and Well-Being for the San Diego County Office of Education. And Bob , welcome to the program.
S4: Thank you. Good morning.
S4: We also remind them of the training resources that we have available on this topic.
S1: And our counselors available for kids today.
S4: Yes , I would say all school districts and charter schools are sensitive to the fact that children are going through difficult times and even probably staff members are having some difficulty to take the death of 19 children. Certainly shakes you to the core.
S4: It ranges. Some schools may not have dedicated security personnel. They may have volunteers or school staff that are assigned duties as children are coming in and out or on the playground. Typically , middle schools and high schools may have some campus supervisory staff , and then some districts also have school resource officers that are dedicated either to a specific high school or to a number of schools.
S1: Considering the news from Texas and other school shootings that we've all lived through.
S4: Each of those is governed by their own school board , and they make their own decisions related to security. What we try to do is ensure that school districts and charter schools have the information they need to make good decisions and training really focused on prevention. Security at the gate is great to try to prevent someone coming in who may be a danger. But prevention to address the concern before it gets to the gate is really where we are focused.
S1: I know that many school districts have been training children on how to respond to possible events like this.
S4: It seems hollow to say that these active shooting events on schools are relatively rare. There are about 50 million school kids in the country and thousands and thousands of schools. So we do know these events happen. They can happen anywhere. We're not immune to them and we all need to prepare. But at the same time , we need to be sure that the training that we're providing to kids is developmentally appropriate and also sensitive to kids who have already experienced trauma. So we do provide training to school leaders to help them train their staff on active shooter responses and also on how to create developmentally appropriate training for children.
S4: But we want them to let their parents know and their school administrators know if they ever have a concern about another person on their school. And that doesn't mean that somebody is actually threatening to cause harm , but maybe they're just hurting. You know , maybe they feel bullied. Maybe they feel trapped or angry. We need to be able to respond early to the things that lay beneath that pathway that could lead to a violent act. In San Diego County , we have been training schools on school threat assessment teams and multidisciplinary teams to evaluate threats. We've worked really closely with our district attorney's office and law enforcement community. We have. Great protocols in place that also involve our law enforcement coordination center , which the FBI is a part of. So we have really good pieces in place , but all of it really relies on people to recognize when someone is suffering , hurting or saying or doing things that are of concern and reporting them so that we can assist them.
S1: I've been speaking with Bob Mueller. He's with the San Diego County Office of Education. And Bob , thank you so much.
S4: You're very welcome.
S1: The horror and fear generated by mass shootings can do some real damage to the way we think about our daily activities. Sending kids to school , going to the supermarket can suddenly become very scary. How do we go about normal life when things no longer feel normal ? Dr. Michelle Castle is a licensed psychologist with a practice in La Hoya. She's one of the media representatives for the San Diego Psychological Association , and she joins us now. And Michelle Castle , welcome to the program.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S1: Now , unfortunately , you must have a lot of experience dealing with the emotional aftermath of mass shootings. What kinds of things do you find people experiencing.
S2: When it comes to these types of mass shootings and these types of traumatic events ? We find a spike in various areas of mental health. Specifically , people who have had previous trauma can tend to have a recurrence of PTSD symptoms , specifically just by virtue of seeing these tragedies and witnessing these tragedies. There's an element of triggering effect that happens to people who have these underlying symptoms. And for people just in general , just exposure , repetitive exposure to these types of traumatic events can create by virtue of vicarious trauma. And that typically vicarious trauma we see mainly with caregivers and , you know , people , for example , firefighters , doctors , mental health providers , health care workers that are in the thick of the situation. They're not directly in victimized by the trauma , but they're in the situation in some way. However , repetitive exposure can also , in a community create this type of vicarious trauma. And it's very difficult because we do see this bringing up quite a bit of feelings for just people in general.
S2: Sometimes parents just go into a conversation without recognizing how they're doing and how they're processing , and by virtue , they can be anxious and then pass on that anxiety to their kids. So we don't want to do that. We want to make sure that , first and foremost , that before we have any conversations with our children , we recognize where we are. Where is our mental health at this point ? Where's how are we feeling ? Are we feeling compassion , fatigue , burnout ? Are we feeling trauma from this ? Is it triggering us and then making sure that we take the steps to self-care and to get to a point where we feel comfortable with the conversation that we have with our kids and any potential reactions. So at that point , once we do check in and feel that level of stability , that we're able to use developmentally appropriate language and address the situations with the children based on that , what I mean by that is if you have younger kids to keep it simple , to keep it basic , letting them know they're safe , I know we might not feel that way. These events cause us to feel like we're unsafe. But statistically speaking , this is not a probability as much as a possibility. And letting them know that their adults are there for them , that the school is there for them as a parent or as a caregiver , making sure that you review the protocol of the school to explain it to the child so they know and asking them how they feel about it and just identifying emotions for those , especially the younger kids. This was their peer group for this latest event , this latest tragedy. They they may have different feelings about that for middle and older kids , middle aged kids , I should say , you know , in the teen age , young pre-teens and then teens , that's a different group. They're going to have more feelings about it. They're likely going to want to be more active about it. They may express more anger , more frustration , more fear , more anxiety. These are things that you want to make sure that you discuss more openly. And again , asking questions , asking how they view it , and asking if they understand the protocols in their school. And at that point , too , looking for observational cues. Sometimes , you know , adults and children , we're not always the best at identifying our emotions effectively. So if you see that a child , especially if they're younger , they don't have that capacity maybe to identify sadness in that way if they're having sleep disturbance or if they're demonstrating mood. Shifts or mood changes. We want to be on top of that and make sure that we're jumping in as soon as possible.
S1: Today is not only the day after the horrific shooting in Texas , but it's also the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. Now , black Americans talk about the stress of being black. Of having to face the threat of violence and systemic racism every day.
S2: So while I don't have the statistical data in front of me , there is certainly a longitudinal effect that comes from being victimized consistently in specially targeted groups and with African-Americans in particular. The black community has undergone such trauma , such extensive trauma since the beginning of this country , so to speak , as far as the United States. We have to acknowledge that. With that also again , comes that vicarious trauma where there's numbness , there's burnout , there's hopelessness. There's quite significant emotions that are attached to this. And yeah , it really it can be quite impactful for certain groups of people. And I want to extend that to people who have been victims of violence in any race or gender identity.
S1: So and if people in general are feeling anxious and disoriented by the violence , that can seem to surround us.
S2: Part of it is limiting our social media , limiting our exposure to television. You know , it can be good to be up to date with certain things , but unfortunately , this bombardment and continuous bombardment can also cause more exacerbation of symptoms. So limiting some of these things and instead participating in more family activities , participating in more outdoor activities , we find that actually nature is a wonderful way to help us stabilize. So going out in nature , taking a walk , taking a hike , engaging in exercise that also creates wonderful neurotransmitters , activations in our brain and making sure that we're just continuously noticing where we are and working on those coping skills. That is very important when we're going through something like this.
S1: I've been speaking with Dr. Michelle Castle , a licensed psychologist with a practice in La Hoya. Dr. Castle , thank you so much.
S2: Thank you.
S5: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. Parents of San Diego Unified School children were notified this week that indoor masking requirements may be reinstated if certain risk levels are reached. The plan comes as a response to rising case numbers , both in the community at large and specifically within schools. Last week , more than 1000 positive COVID cases among students and staff were reported across the district. And with the busy summer months almost here , it seems likely that cases will continue to rise across San Diego. Exactly how that will impact health and safety guidelines across the region , however , remains to be seen. Joining me once again with a COVID update is Dr. Eric Topol , director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Hoya. And Dr. Topol , welcome back to the program.
S3: Thank you. Always good to be with you.
S3: We don't have that many things that we can do. You know , young children , we don't have vaccines approved in older children. The vaccines haven't been used enough. The masks , regular masks are not so great. We need , of course , higher quality masks like 95 and 94 , which would be useful. But at this point , there's been so much complacency and not enough will to prevent the viral infections , because , as you well know , these cases are infections that we get more infections and in some cases , hospitalizations , in rare cases deaths. But most importantly now we're seeing much more worries about long COVID from these cases and of course , the nurturing of more variants to come.
S5: Some health experts have suggested that we may be in the midst of a hidden wave where actual cases are much higher than what's being reported.
S3: This is overt. The only reason it's the sense of it being less than it really is is because there's so few tests that are being done. But even with the tests that are being done , you know , yesterday we had 140,000. Last week we had days of 200,000 or averaging well over 110,000 of confirmed cases. But if you look at the testing at home or the lack of testing , you should multiply that by at least seven fold. So we're at a million cases per day easily right now , which takes us to the second largest wave since the beginning of the pandemic. The only one being worse was our current original , the so-called bay one variant. So this is not a good time. This is not a hidden wave. This is a real deal wave. And it's something that we should be taking very seriously.
S5: And you mentioned our immune systems may not recognize these variants.
S3: So it doesn't really work if you've been unvaccinated to this , the current issue of A to B to 1 to 1 and on and on. Now , if you've been vaccinated , the problem there is , again , we're seeing cracks in our immune protection. That is a vaccine induced immune response. It's not as strong. It's not holding up as well. It's not to blame the vaccines with boosters. They've done exceptionally well , better than what anyone could have predicted. It's the virus. It's it's accelerating its evolution.
S5: You know , it's a commonly held belief that the more a virus mutates , the more mild its symptoms become.
S3: It's wrong. So yesterday there was a new report that the people that to were worse off in terms of their symptoms and the effects on their daily life than people would be a one. And even more dramatic from that was when we went from Alpha Variant to Delta , it got much more virulent or causing much more disease. So it's totally wrong to think that as the virus evolves , it gets less severe. No , we already have two good lines of evidence that it got worse and it could get worse over time. So , no , that that needs to be busted. That myth that it's just going to burn out and it's just going to be like a common cold. It's unpredictable. And that's what we have to keep in mind. That's why we need to pull out all the stops and get nasal vaccine and a pan coronavirus vaccine and better medications beyond just packs of it in what we have right now , because we don't have any assurance that this is going to get more mild over time.
S5: As you mentioned earlier , Pfizer just announced that three doses of their vaccine would offer strong protection to children under five.
S3: That's very high because we're talking about American infections. That's higher than. What we've seen in adults when it's more like 50%. So it's good whether that's because it was three shots , which was a Doherty in a way , building in the booster , that may be it. And it was a slightly higher dose and Moderna used with their two shot program. But we haven't seen the data. So , you know , it's really hard to know. We're just working from basically a press release , which is of course limited. As far as why is it taking so long ? It's much harder to do vaccine trials in young children. Of course , you've got to have parents that are willing to get the children consented and to follow these children with repeat tests to see whether or not they become infected. It's logistically difficult. And we're seeing all the vaccine trials take longer now , like , for example , the American booster vaccine program , we're not even going to have that earliest to July. So all the vaccine trials that are being conducted now are taking longer than the initial one.
S5: You know , summer is almost here and likely to increase the number of people traveling across the country.
S3: That's really important if you haven't , because you just don't want to get this virus. If you can avoid it any , you've had it before , you don't want to get it again. Second thing is , if you're traveling and if you're in public places like airports and flying and other gatherings indoors , wear a mask , high quality mask , because it will help. And , you know , if you can avoid crowds , that's great. You know , staying outside as much as possible is really helpful. And , you know , rapid tests are really useful , but they're not perfect because you can have a rapid test and be in a room that everyone has had a rapid test and be negative. But unfortunately that room may have false negatives or people who became positive after their rapid test was done. So don't rely on them completely for making decisions. They're helpful , but they're not 100%.
S5: And earlier you mentioned that COVID is evolving at an accelerated pace.
S3: And with Alpha and Delta , as you may recall , we never had this variant. You know , basically it was alpha or delta. But now with America , we're not only having suffered , but they're taking the spread , the contagiousness , amping it up more and more. This is really troubling. That is that we're seeing variants emerge of the current our crime that are worse than L.A. and it's happening pretty quickly. So that just shows you that we have so many past to get these worse variants that we shouldn't be at all glib about where this is headed. We could certainly see things that are more transmissible , more immune escape , more challenging for our vaccines. This is far from a pandemic state that , you know , in a contained zone. That's what we should be striving for. We should be really pushing for zero COVID deaths , which is attainable. But we're just not taking this with the kind of aggressiveness and going for the innovations we need to get ahead of the virus rather than constantly saying staying behind.
S5: So this is not typical of how any virus we've ever seen has behaved. No.
S3: No. We're headed to one of the most transmissible pathogens in history , measles. You know , the R0 for the current variant is 16. Measles 18. That's one of the most contagious things we've ever seen. So this isn't good. And the chance for the virus to continue to evolve is certain. And there's just too many ways for it to get there. So we need to get better things out there , like nasal vaccines and vaccines that are protective against all variants. We can do this , but there just hasn't been the will. And we have a Congress that is refusing to allocate additional funds and making believe that COVID is over when that couldn't be further from the truth.
S5: I've been speaking with Dr. Eric Topol , director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Hoya. Dr. Topol , thanks again for speaking with us today.
S3: Thank you , Jane.
S1: If you need to communicate with someone online but want to keep it secret , an app called Signal is a good bet. It's fully encrypted , meaning messages can't be downloaded or shared. But what happens when government employees start using it ? KPBS investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER examines how officials might be using signal to circumvent the public's right to know.
S6: Just after noon on a monday last June , two city council staffers had a text exchange. So nice to meet you today. I'm shocked. Your campaign person , Jared Miller Sklar , wrote to Caitlin Willoughby. I know I am young , but if I am following in your footsteps , that is definitely a great sign because you have done some great things , Willoughby responded. Then Miller Sklar gave his junior colleague some advice. Download the messaging app signal death download signal. It's preferable for me for communicating about campaign slash work stuff or of course , just the T , he wrote. The California Public Records Act says most communications about government business must be available to the public. So if Miller Sklar is sending work messages via signal , those messages are very likely. Public Records. Boing KPBS asked to see them , he said he didn't have any.
S2: There should be policies in place preventing them from using signal to conduct government business.
S6: This raises bright red flags for Sheila Nathan , a lawyer with the open government advocacy group Californians Aware.
S2: It's a means of avoiding disclosure to the public under the CPRA. It's like and it's it kind of flies in the face of like transparency and government accountability.
S6: She's also deeply troubled by a signal setting that permanently deletes messages after 30 seconds.
S2: After they're deleted. There is no record of that communication on either the actual device or on a server , and that that renders a search for public records. It renders that impossible.
S6: Miller Sklar declined to do an interview for this story , but answered questions by email. He said people in his office do use signal , but not for government business and not during work hours. However , in his text to Willoughby , Miller Sklar specifically mentions work stuff , and he sent those messages just after noon on a monday. Records show other staffers in Campos office also use signal. They frequently wrote things like , just texted you on signal. Yeah , I'll send it to you on signal or one putting this here to send on signal because , good lord , this was wild. San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's office also uses signal constantly for communication about government business from a staffer asking for the office key code to talking points for Fletcher's state of the county speech. Fletcher's office provided all of those signal messages in response to a KPBS public records request.
S4: They could have a clear , bright line , which says , If you're doing public business , do it on the public agency's own system.
S6: David Loy is the legal director of the First Amendment Coalition. He's troubled by the widespread use of signal by Fletcher's team , even though they are open about it. But he's even more concerned by Campos office.
S4: The execution operation of the Public Records Act does depend , to a large degree , on agency , good faith. And the California Supreme Court presumed the agency's would act in good faith. And if they are not , that , in fact , that undermines and defeats the purpose of the entire system of open government.
S6: A bigger issue is the public wouldn't know about government signal use without evidence. Like what ? KPBS obtained emails and text messages that specifically mention the app. Matthew with Californians aware joked It's like Fight Club.
S2: I feel like first rule of using signal as a public official should be. Don't mention that you use signal.
S1: Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER. And , Claire , welcome.
S6: Thank you.
S1: Now continuing with that Fight Club reference , they do talk about using signal. So doesn't that indicate that they are not trying to hide anything ? Sure.
S6: Well , I mean , they talk about using signal amongst themselves in email and communication that we got through a Public Records Act request. So you're right , they talk about it , but I don't know that they were anticipating the public really seeing that. So maybe not exactly the way that Fight Club is , but amongst themselves , they're talking about it. But I don't think they meant to be talking about it publicly. Okay.
S1: Okay.
S6: It's any communication that has to do with anything about government. Business is a public record , whether you're doing it on a personal phone , personal email. And courts have supported that.
S1: So if two government employees just wanted to talk about their reactions to a meeting they were in.
S6: And in fact , that's come up in in the past , in the history of San Diego , where it was clear that city council members were texting each other during meetings and and news organizations requested those texts. And , yes , that is public information.
S1: Well , let's talk about the two different ways this app was used by public agencies in your report when you requested them. The city council staffer says his signal emails were not available.
S6: And so then they aren't subject to the Public Records Act request. So , you know , you say give me all of your government related or work related signal messages. And he says , I don't have any because , you know , I haven't been communicating about work on signal even though I have a text message from him where he says use signal , it's preferable for communicating about work stuff. And he was sending it in the middle of the day on a monday. So , you know , that's that's arguable. But that's why he said that he didn't have any.
S1: And keeping those emails private , that potentially keeps the public from access they should have.
S6: And and the thing that is , you know , scares these advocates is there really isn't a way to know. It's the public needs to trust the government officials saying , yes , we've given you everything that we have because on signal it's encrypted. And so , you know , you really actually wouldn't know if they had messages that they were keeping from the public.
S1: On the other hand , County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's office willingly gave you access to their signal app communications. And it sort of leaves you wondering why would they be using an encrypted app in the first place ? Right.
S6: Well , I mean , you know , we should say that signal is a really good messaging app. It's very clean. It's easy to make groups. It's easy to reply to messages. People sometimes just really liked the functionality of it. And so , you know , that could be why they are using it.
S1: So in reference to what David Lloyd with the First Amendment Coalition told you.
S6: And I think that one thing that he really stressed and wants to work on is that the Public Records Act is very clear. What's not clear are retention policies. So how long records actually have to be kept ? One thing that came out of this story is talking to the county. They said that they're making changes about the way that they review technology. It seems like they don't have , you know , quite a as as clear of a policy as maybe the city does. So it seems like , you know , updating policies and the ways that county employees are able to communicate might come out of that.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER. And Claire , thank you.
S6: Thank you.
S5: Preschool students are expelled and suspended at rates three times higher than kids in K-through-12 schools. It's a problem California lawmakers are trying to address with a new bill that would ban the practice that disproportionately impacts black children. From the California report , Deepa Fernandes says some early educators are already addressing the issue inside the classroom.
S7: Matthew is a bubbly and sweet kid , so pasty. But there are times when Matthew , like most preschoolers , is hard to deal with , says his mom , Denise Wilson of Compton.
S2: He doesn't have any boundaries. He's very kind of in your face.
S7: Matthew was constantly getting into trouble at preschool.
S2: All the teachers really were having a lot of issues with Matthew's behaviour and they didn't want me to bring him at a certain time during nap time because he'll disturb the classroom.
S7: And then this happened. How you do for this is Denise.
S2: Matthew had an incident.
S7: And threw a chair.
S2: And he was.
S7: Suspended from school. Suspension or expulsion from pre-school happens way more to black children than others. Federal civil rights data shows that pre-pandemic black three and four year olds made up just 18% of all public preschoolers , yet they were almost half of all those suspended behaviours. Communication suspending preschoolers with behavioural issues or punishing them is not the solution , says Dr. Marie Connie Poulson , chief psychologist at Children's Hospital , Los Angeles.
S1: What his communication.
S7: Is saying is for some reason he can't cope with the expectations and he needs help. Dr. Poulson believes that many early educators simply don't have the training to know how to deal with challenging behaviours. It needs to be part of the pre-service training of teachers , training preschool teachers to work with children with challenges. Is the mission of Lynda Brault , a child behaviour expert with West End and Education Equity Organisation.
S2: And their difficulty with behaviour is just as similar as I don't know how to read. We wouldn't say sit in the corner with those books until you know how to read , but we do that to kids. You sit in the corner until you know how to play with kids and that's not logical.
S7: Teachers want to help , says. They've just never been taught about the challenges some kids face and why punitive measures won't work.
S2: It's not magic in the moment. It's all the things you've done ahead of time. It's the relationships you've built so that when you see a child that is escalating and is going to have an explosion of strong emotions , you have strategies that you've taught him or the other children.
S7: When he was yelling.
S2: At me , you were mad at who ? When they were yelling at you.
S7: This preschool has worked hard in its two decades to make sure every child is met where they're at , Marin says. She points out one little boy who her staff identified early is having challenging behaviour and seems a little unaware of his body bumping into other kids. As I stand there with the kids , he suddenly reaches out and hits the little girl next to him. I Oh yeah , be gentle with me. Did you catch the teacher's response ? She said. Tell him. Be gentle with me. And the little girl repeats that to the boy. And she wanders off , apparently mollified. If you discipline a child while their brain is not able to think and process , you're not helping the child learn how to self calm in this moment. Punishment can make a child angrier , she says.
S2: The teachers have a calming kid resolution kit , and there's some fidgeting toys and things like that , and they're just kind of help them re-engage with their thinking brain.
S7: The bill to ban suspensions only applies to publicly funded preschools. Marin hopes that all preschools will replace harsh discipline with strategies that help children learn to deal with their big feelings. And the Fernandez.
S5: That was from Pacific Oaks College Early Childhood Reporting fellow Deepa Fernandez. Her position is funded in part by first five L.A.. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a landmark piece of legislation prohibiting racial discrimination at the polls. But its impacts go far beyond just increased access to the ballot box. The legislation also played a significant role in lowering economic inequality between black and white Americans. Recent efforts from the U.S. Supreme Court , though , have begun to erode some of those gains. That's according to new research from our next guests , Carlos Fernando of and Nonso Leon , assistant professor of finance at UC San Diego's Rady School of Management. Carlos , welcome to Midday Edition.
S4: Thank you for the invitation.
S5: We'll start in 2013 with this conversation. That's when one piece of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
S4: That provision was Section five of the Voting Rights Act and that provide what it's called a pre-clearance requirement , that is that the federal government have oversight power over state voting state laws to ensure that they were not discriminatory. So basically Central five , which is the important section , was made ineffective by the decision in 2013 by the Supreme Court.
S5: In your research , you and your co-author , Abe Energia from UC Berkeley Focus on the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Tell us more about the impacts of that piece of legislation. Yes.
S4: Yes. So what Abby and I show is that following the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 , you start seeing a convergence being waged between white and black workers. That black worker wages increased by 5.5% relative to white wages , which meant that there was a decrease in the gap of about 20% , roughly from the overall convergence. You were seen in black wages from the sixties to the eighties. That's a key , important gain in the way this happened is because by having additional political empowerment , you start seeing pressure in the decisions the politicians are taking these decisions , including changes in the public sector , employment changes in the way civil rights regulations was being enforced , making them more effective , and the pressure that these changes in the public sector work have put pressure on private sector wages as well because these private sectors are competing during that time for workers with the public sector. So you see all these things happening that generate this narrowing of the gap in wages for black workers.
S4: When we were thinking about voting rights , the direct point we always think about is by having more ability to generate to have an impact on the policies that we are choosing. We are choosing a set of policy priorities that we may prefer , that maybe minimum wage , that may be many other things. But what we are showing goes beyond that. There's an effect of having political empowerment changes , the incentives of the politicians , even if you are not choosing the politicians that you want , even if you're not choosing the policy priorities that you want because the politicians are behaving differently in that ability to change the incentives is critical. So what ? We start seeing this once we have the Voting Rights Act passed. Even conservative politicians in the South start supporting more civil rights regulation and more progressive regulation that they would do otherwise. So you start seeing a change in the overall behavior of politicians in a way that benefits minority constituents. So the having voting power is not only important because it allows you to choose the policies that you want , but also because it changes the incentives of all the politicians that are in power , especially at the local level. Hmm.
S5: What drew you to research ? Voting rights.
S4: I do. So I come from Puerto Rico. And Puerto Rico is one of the largest episodes of current disenfranchisement that we have right now in the United States because of the socio political revolts about the relationship with the status quo status that we have with the United States. But we know that beyond the status for Ricans are U.S. citizens that are not allowed to vote. So these are disenfranchisement events that goes way beyond that , just probable status. And we see that in situations like when we have the Hurricane Maria , we saw the reaction of the federal government was well below what the reaction of the federal government has been for other natural disasters that happen in the mainland of the US. So what we are seeing and what I saw growing up firsthand is that the incentive of federal politicians. Are not the same that they are in the mainland. Just because the right to vote doesn't exist.
S4: And I started evaluating what happened following the case in 2013 , and I'd like to remark we still haven't seen the full effects of that decision every year , the process. There's more restrictions on voting. What the general expected that we would see in this is a little. Well , there's a few things that we we already know. So we we wrote this study about the effects of disenfranchisement , the effect of Shelby County versus Holder in 2019. And by 2019 , you start seeing that , wait , this for black workers in the public sector , start reducing. So especially for new hires in 2020 , following the election and all the way to 2021 , we start seeing many more state deals that are restricting the right to vote. By February 2021 , the Brennan Center had documented there were 28 state laws in place , over 160 bills in place that were intended to restrict the right to vote. So the effects that we that we already started documenting that are happening , that are decreasing the wages for black workers in the public sector are going to keep increasing over time , as many of these bills become law. Hmm.
S4: So it was passed in the House. And because there are no 60 votes for the passage of the bill , it hasn't been enacted into law yet. Something else that we need is we need to generate more protections of the right to vote at the local level as well , because we cannot rely only on the federal government or the Supreme Court to protect the rights of minorities. Many of the tools are where our data well after 2013 are being also taken out of the toolbox to protect voting rights. We need more political organization and a more activist organization at the local level. We need the action at the federal level. That's the way we can actually try to empower minorities in a way that we can protect their economic decisions.
S5: I've been speaking with Carlos Fernando of a Nancy Leone assistant professor of finance with UC San Diego's Rady School of Management. Carlos , thank you very much for joining us.
S4: Thank you.

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