Just Communities Refutes Racism Charges in Schools

Anonymous Parent Group Threatens Lawsuit

Eric Early

Courtesy Photo

Eric Early

Attorney Eric Early, a Republican candidate for California Attorney General who got 943,071 votes in the June primary, told the Board of Education at its September 11 meeting that Santa Barbara Unified School District’s ongoing agreement with the Just Communities Central Coast (JCCC) nonprofit to provide classroom training in diversity, equity, and inclusion may land the district on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of anonymous parents.

The JCCC curriculum, they contend, “is radical, discriminatory, and illegal,” Early said, referring to a packet of JCCC instructional material that defined racism and oppression specifically as white people targeting people of color, for example. In a September 21 follow-up letter to district counsel, Early wrote, “Teachers, parents and students have confidentially expressed their concerns that JCCC’s discriminatory curriculum has led to increased racial animosity toward Caucasian teachers and students.”

In a press release Monday, JCCC Executive Director Jarrod Schwartz said, “After taking the time to review the materials and the claims, we now feel comfortable stating that many of the materials claimed to be ours have in fact been altered. Things described as being said or taking place during our workshops run counter to our curriculum, approach, and philosophy. At best, our work is being misrepresented; at worst, it is being distorted and doctored to support the claim that we are somehow anti-white and anti-Christian.”

Schwartz and JCCC have been generally praised for helping the district narrow achievement gaps over the years. The September 11 agreement, called a memorandum of understanding (MOU), would extend JCCC’s work throughout the 2018-19 school year, costing the district about $250,000. As the controversy surfaced, a scheduled board vote on the MOU was pushed to October.

“I’m all for getting feedback from legal counsel since we’ve been threatened with a lawsuit,” boardmember Kate Parker said at the meeting. She added, “Just Communities has done a terrific job for both our staff and our students.”

Responding to Early's September 21 letter, lawyers for the district wrote that the claims of Early's anonymous clients are meritless in part because the group's "false claim that JCCC's program is used to indoctrinate students with anti-white and anti-Christian bias is based upon cherrypicked, taken-out-of-context parts of JCCC's staff-training handbook, [and] power-point slides that [the anonymous group] or someone else altered to support [the] mischaracterization of JCCC's program. This so-called evidence demonstrates an unreasoned and unsupported animus against JCCC's program by a handful of community members. It is especially pernicious that [the anonymous group] or someone on its behalf chose to disseminate these half-truths and unsupported, anonymous allegations to the press to try and whip up an anti-JCCC fervor."

In a September 27 email to school board members and district Superintendent Cary Matsuoka, Schwartz wrote that "a number of people have asked for more information about the exact alterations that were made to our materials. Attached is a document that provides a side-by-side comparison along with some explanation and context."

That document is linked below.