Paul Wellman (file)
Saturday, March 9, 2019
United States District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson dismissed all six of Fair Education’s counts against Just Communities and the Santa Barbara Unified School District on a technicality. Among other things, Fair Education alleged that Just Communities’ material is anti-Caucasian, anti-Christian, and anti-male. However, the group failed to identify an individual in their suit that suffered harm because of the alleged reverse racist materials and subsequently had the counts dismissed because they lacked legal standing. The court also denied Fair Education’s motion to temporarily freeze the contract between the school district and Just Communities, which would in turn have temporarily halted the Just Communities services to the school district.
Fair Education is a group of concerned parents and taxpayers that formed in late 2018, and in addition to suing the school district and Just Communities, members have also commented on the Pledge of Allegiance incident at Santa Barbara City College. The organization filed suit against Just Communities and the school district in early December. Just Communities has been providing implicit-bias and educational equity workshops and instruction to teachers, parents, and students in the district for more than a decade. All the programs are voluntary, and students must receive parent permission to attend.
Three of the six claims submitted by Fair Education are federal discrimination claims, the fourth and fifth allege violations of California Education Code, and the sixth a violation of California Public Contract Code. In an opinion filed on Wednesday, the court dismissed the three federal discrimination claims; Fair Education failed to establish standing because it did not identify at least one member who has suffered or will suffer harm, wrote the court. To date, no members from Fair Education have come forward to plead that they’ve been discriminated against.
Claims 4, 5, and 6 are all state matters, and none can be considered by the federal court, Wilson wrote. Fair Education had asked for a preliminary injunction, or contract freeze, based on claim 6. That, too, could not be heard by the federal court.
“We applaud the Court’s decision denying Fair Education Santa Barbara’s request to immediately halt Just Communities’ contract with the Santa Barbara Unified School District, where over 14,000 students benefit from evidence-based programs that improve educational outcomes and help build stronger communities,” wrote Just Communities.
However, Fair Education intends to bring the alleged violation of CA Public Contract Code to state courts and to continue pursuing a temporary injunction via state courts. “Fair Education Santa Barbara expects its injunction request based on the bidding requirement to be ruled on by the state court in a future proceeding,” wrote Fair Education Attorney Eric Early.
Just Communities said in a statement that their work has been mischaracterized to suggest bias where there is none. “Just Communities’ programs and work are critically needed and we are proud to continue providing nationally recognized, evidence-based diversity, equity and inclusion services in the Santa Barbara Unified School District,” they wrote.
Santa Barbara Unified and Just Communities have denied all claims that allege they intentionally discriminated against the plaintiffs or their children. “Our district is committed to a belief that all students have the capacity and desire to learn, which is made better in an environment where students feel safe, welcome and included,” said Superintendent Cary Matsuoka. “The federal court’s decisive decision affirms our ability to provide opportunities for staff and students to learn about ways to minimize discrimination and prejudice in all its forms.”
Fair Education has until April 8 to submit an amended complaint that includes more identifying information for members that faced the alleged discrimination.
Editor's Note: The story was updated March 12 to clarify the counts were dismissed on a technicality.