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Parents divided on superintendent’s racially inflammatory comments

 May 16, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, May 16th.>>>>

Reactions to the superintendent’s racially inflammatory comments
More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

Bans off our bodies - that was the rallying cry at more than 300-protests across the country over the weekend. Thousands gathered in downtown San Diego Saturday to demand that a woman’s right to choose be maintained. Between four and five-thousand people filled the area in front of the Hall of Justice - the crowd so large that it spilled over into the Federal Court Plaza across the street.

Among them was Dr. Mariana Salerno.

“It’s really human rights. It’s about equality, it’s about women being treated as citizens and just humans really.”

About 50 counter protesters showed up.

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As of Sunday, the San Diego county jail system is rescinding its zero-bail policy. It was a policy that set bail for certain misdemeanor offenses to zero during the pandemic as a means of keeping the overall jail population down. When the policy was put in place, people already in custody for the same misdemeanor offenses were also released. According to a statement from the county sheriff’s department, there’s been a “significant decrease” in the county jail systems covid-19 cases. and that played a part in the San Diego superior court’s order to rescind the zero-bail policy.

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Soaring inflation has triggered California’s minimum wage increase. The minimum wage will go up to 15 dollars and 50 cents an hour next year. The increase will benefit about 3 million workers and is required by a state law passed in 2016.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

In the wake of San Dieguito Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Cheryl James-Ward's racially inflammatory remarks regarding Asian students, KPBS race and equity reporter Cristina Kim says many Chinese American parents are divided.

During a DEI board meeting last month, San Dieguito Union High School Superintendent Dr. Cheryl James-Ward said this when asked why data showed the district’s Asian students excelling academically…

“We have an influx of Asians from China and the people who are able to make that journey are wealthy…

She later elaborated that family finances impact academic achievement…

“Because when we look at socioeconomics it plays a role.”

Following these remarks, several Chinese American parents have spoken out against the superintendent during school board meetings for what they see as a harmful and inaccurate portrayal of Asian American students and their families.

Like this one on April 20th….

I even donated some money for some universities just in particular to support the BLM. I support Black people…. For equal opportunities because I believe all people are equal.

Your time is up.

So you should be fired. You should be fired.

So far, the dominant narrative on social media and in the news has been that ALL of the San Dieguito Union Chinese American parents and guardians agree that James-Ward ….who is Black and currently on administrative leave should be fired.

But the community is not a monolith…. And in the wake of the incident parents have divergent views on what they believe the best course of action should be….

I feel like a lot of the parents, especially moderate parents, are really got intimidated by the by the fierceness they're seeing at the at the school board meeting.

That’s Albert Liang. He’s the legal guardian of an incoming Canyon Crest Academy freshman. He says the fallout from the incident has divided San Dieguito’s Chinese American community.

Liang believes the apology and healing plan James-Ward emailed to district families is sincere. He wants to build solidarity and learn from this situation.

We're trying really hard to push our voice out to have this more moderates and and, you know, cohesive voice trying to unite other minorities in the community to. To collaborate with everyone.

He fears a lot of the controversy is being fueled by misinformation being shared on WeChat, the Chinese social media app, which many Chinese American San Dieguito parents use to share and translate district news.

It's not hard to identify the kind of culture wars that have been waged on people and also just the purposeful distortion of information.

Liang says he’s also sympathetic with a contingent of parents who say too many resources have been squandered … on the district’s lawsuits and a revolving door of superintendents.

Those money could have been invested into the children's education and helping the community to, you know, to do better. But, you know, just wasting our money on something that's really both unnecessary and and and political, which is really not what many parents are looking for.

However, many parents feel the only way forward is for James-Ward to resign. Among them is Dandan Pan, whose children graduated from Canyon Crest Academy.

I don't know how she can continue in this district with with this damage being done. personally believe they're saying in Chinese that you really cannot put the broken mirror together. So when the mirror is broken, it's it's it's it's broken. [00:07:51][16.9

Pan feels James-Ward’s comments – whether intentional or not – erased her own experience as an immigrant pooling money to be able to go to school in the states…

She associated money with some with Chinese community, which is not true at all. I came to the States 30 years ago. My parents borrowed the money from about 50 people, $100 each. So $5,000 to pay a quarter of my University of Michigan tuition.

And that hurt…which is at the center of the community’s reaction … is something Leah Tsao…another Canyon Crest Academy parent … understands all too well…

They see us as foreign and a little bit exotic and maybe a little bit out of place that we're not part of the community.

Tsao actually sat down for coffee with James-Ward, whom she had never met. The two ended up speaking for hours. She came away convinced that all the focus on James-Ward obscures the more important point, which is that these issues are multi-layered and need to be addressed through conversations, not screaming matches.

I feel like these conversations take a long time and I don't want to see it as like, you know, you don't see my point of view. And that's that close the door.And this is you know, I think this is what we need.

It’s also not lost on Tsao that what’s happening in the San Dieguito school district is a microcosim of USA's specific racial politics, which have long pitted Asian communities against other communities of color… as model minorities.

You're using the Asians as like a standard for how minorities can beat all odds and achieve greatness. So telling other marginalized groups, hey, why can't you do the same? Why can't you be like them?

She says all this has her thinking about the 30th anniversary of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, which severed Black and Korean community relations for years…

I think all people are focused on is less fire. Dr. Word. But they don't see all the history that led up to this that is all connected. I don't think that history initially led up to this, but it's all connected.

On Thursday the San Dieguito Union High School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet.

And Parents and community members from across these various perspectives are planning to attend… to make their voices heard.

Cristina Kim. KPBS News.

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The nationwide shortage of baby formula is leading some parents to try to buy breast milk from neighbors or strangers on Facebook.

But that’s not safe, according to the director of UC San Diego’s breast milk bank.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser says the bank vigorously screens its breast milk donations.

The UC Health Milk Bank primarily serves mothers who couldn’t carry their babies to full term. Dr. Lisa Stellwagen is the director.

UCSD’s milk bank does provide milk to some babies at home—but at a price of $4 to $5 an ounce, which adds up to $6,000 a week. Given this high cost and the formula shortage, parents might be tempted to buy breast milk through social media. Stellwagen says that’s not safe.

“The comparison is like blood. And so there are risks in using raw milk from somebody that you don't know that hasn't been vetted. The milk hasn't been tested, most particularly milk that can be obtained from a public site or on the Internet that might be shipped or handled and properly could put a baby's health at risk.”

The Human Milk Bank is looking for more volunteers to donate milk, and Stellwagen says the formula shortage is a good reminder how great the need is.

Claire Trageser, KPBS News

If families are looking for formula for their child, they can first try smaller stores or pharmacies, or order off legitimate retail sites online. They can also call their child's clinic or doctor's office for assistance.

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The biden administration’s effort to terminate a controversial trump-era asylum policy appears to be in further jeopardy.

A federal judge said Friday he will soon make a final decision in a case challenging the administration’s plans.

KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis has more.

TITLE 42 IS A POLICY ENACTED BY TRUMP EARLY IN THE PANDEMIC THAT HAS BEEN USED TO TURN ASYLUM SEEKERS AWAY FROM THE BORDER NEARLY 2 MILLION TIMES. IT GIVES CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION AGENTS THE ABILITY TO TURN PEOPLE AWAY WITHOUT DUE PROCESS.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN PROMISED TO END THE POLICY ON MAY 23. BUT A FEDERAL LAWSUIT SEEKS TO KEEP THE PROGRAM ALIVE. THE FEDERAL DISTRICT JUDGE IN LOUISIANA OVERSEEING THE CASE HAS HINTED THAT HE WILL RULE AGAINST THE ADMINISTRATION ON PROCEDURAL GROUNDS.

PEDRO RIOS IS AN ACTIVIST WITH AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE IN SAN DIEGO.

“I UNFORTUNATELY ANTICIPATE THAT THE RULING WILL BE TO CONTINUE TO UPHOLD TITLE 42.”

RIOS SAYS THIS IS PART OF A LARGER STRATEGY OF CONSERVATIVE LAWMAKERS USING THE COURTS TO ENACT IMMIGRATION POLICY.

“I THINK WHAT IT REPRESENTS IS A FAILURE OF DUE PROCESS AND A FAILURE OF CHECKS AND BALANCES IN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT WHERE ONE JUDGE DECIDES THAT THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE NO LONGER HAVE THE RIGHT UNDER US LAW OR UNDER INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS TO SEEK ASYLUM IN THE UNITED STATES.”

GUSTAVO SOLIS, KPBS NEWS

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Coming up.... The first Mexican-born woman to go to space. And if you’re wondering what space force does, we’ll have that story next, just after the break.

Who gets to go to space? The answer to that question is beginning to become more inclusive and diverse as more institutions and organizations consider who will have access to the final frontier.

KPBS Race and Equity reporter Cristina Kim spoke with the first Mexican-born woman that will go to space as a citizen science astronaut.

Ever since she was a little girl Katya Echazarreta always looked up at the stars and dreamed of going to space.

Even my middle name is Celeste, which means of the sky. So it's just been a part of me for my entire life.

And now that dream is coming true.

Echazarreta will be traveling to space on Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin Rocket ship as a citizen scientist. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico… Echazarreta will be the first Mexican- born woman to ever travel to space. It’s an honor she doesn’t take lightly…after always being told space wasn’t for her.

Being able to do this is changing that narrative to the point where a little girl from Mexico who comes from maybe the same city where I was born, is telling their parents or their teacher that they want to go to space and they're not going to hear those words anymore.

Echazarreta will begin space training a week before launch. The launch date is May 20th.

Cristina Kim. KPBS News.

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The U.S. military has been involved in outer space for decades, with the Air Force and other military branches taking the lead. But about two years ago, Congress created the Space Force to take over most of those responsibilities.

Eric Schmid of the American Homefront Project traveled to Colorado to see some of what the Space Force does.

That report was produced by the american home front project, a public media collaboration that reports on american military life and veterans. funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Chinese-American parents of the San Dieguito Union High School District are divided in their reactions to the recent racially inflammatory comments made by the district’s superintendent. Meanwhile, the director of the UC San Diego breast milk bank warns against buying breast milk on Facebook amid the nationwide shortage of baby formula. Plus, Katya Echazarreta will soon be the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space.