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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has entered into a settlement with the Sausalito Marin City School District (District) to address discriminatory treatment of students who were segregated into Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy (Bayside MLK). The discriminatory treatment was the direct result of decisions made by the District’s former Board of Trustees. These actions included intentional racial and ethnic segregation of schools within the District, termination of math, science, and English programs at Bayside MLK, and funding decisions that failed to deliver promised resources to the predominately minority community of students at Bayside MLK. The actions taken by the Board of Trustees at that time were intended to segregate the District and they were successful, with negative consequences for hundreds of children. The agreement announced today will resolve a comprehensive investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office and establish concrete measures to remedy the unlawful segregation at Bayside MLK.
“Every child—no matter their stripe or stature—deserves equal access to a quality education. That’s what we say, what we believe, and what’s required under the law,” said Attorney General Becerra. “But what we say isn’t always what we do. Certainly, it’s not what the Sausalito Marin City School District did when it chose to segregate its students. Depriving a child of a fair chance to learn is wicked, it’s warped, it’s morally bankrupt, and it’s corrupt. Your skin color or zip code should not determine winners and losers.”
“Today we take significant steps to address segregation at Bayside MLK,” added Attorney General Becerra. “I thank today’s Sausalito Marin City School District leaders, its trustees, and its superintendent for agreeing to move toward equal access to a quality education for all of its students. This announcement should be a call to action to districts around the state to follow through on their responsibilities under the law. It is up to all of us to protect California’s children and communities from injustice—and when we work together, we can get it done.”
“This agreement represents a historic turning point and clear plan to support our healing from a collective community trauma that has its roots in systems and structures that are decades if not centuries old in our county, state, and country,” said Sausalito Marin City School District Superintendent Itoco Garcia. “We are honored and humbled to collaboratively create a vision of a high performing educational model that can serve as an exemplar and a beacon of excellent, equitable, and inclusive education for our community. We are here to deliver on the promise of public education for all of our residents. Un pueblo unido no puede ser vencido.”
“Today’s settlement with the Attorney General’s Office now enables the district to move forward with full transparency,” said Sausalito Marin City School District Board of Trustees President Ida Green. “As an elected official, I ask all constituents in the district to ready yourselves to stand bold in your commitment to put an end to unequal education, embrace differences, work systemically toward change, and adopt a plan toward desegregation. It’s the right time to make a difference.”
Back in 1964, the California Department of Education found that the Sausalito Marin City School District’s schools were segregated. In response, the District initiated reform and began to operate an integrated system where students of the same grade, from Marin City or Sausalito, generally attended school at the same location. Decades later, a DOJ investigation found that in 2013 the District intentionally established a racially and ethnically segregated elementary and middle school, Bayside MLK, to serve a predominately minority community in unincorporated Marin City. The children of Sausalito, on the other hand, would be served by the only other publicly funded K-8 school established in the District, charter school Willow Creek Academy. In coming to this decision, the District disregarded input from minority members of the community, discouraging community involvement in the schools.
Shortly after establishing Bayside MLK, the District cut critical classroom programming at the school while guaranteeing stable funding for Willow Creek Academy. As a result, the District operated a segregated school with inferior education programming and directly harmed students enrolled at Bayside MLK where the student body consists primarily of African-American and Latino children. The District also terminated programs that were necessary to meet the standards required to start an International Baccalaureate program, which had been promised to the school following its establishment. In addition, partially due to the lack of access to full-time counseling at Bayside MLK, African-American students in a District-funded program lost 66 times as many days of instruction to suspensions in comparison to white students. This was the largest discipline disparity among white students and African-American students for public school districts in the state. The funding and programming decisions by the Board of Trustees violated both the Equal Protection Guarantee of the California Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
To address this segregation and the additional inequities, the Attorney General’s Office and the District worked cooperatively to agree on a process to desegregate Bayside MLK and ensure the provision of essential academic programs to prepare students for high school and beyond. In general, the agreement includes the following measures:
The settlement announced today requires the District to begin remedial action immediately and implement the long-term desegregation plan beginning with the 2020-21 school year. If the District does not successfully desegregate Bayside MLK within five years, the settlement provides for escalating measures, as well as the extension and revisiting of the comprehensive plan.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting the rights of each and every student in California. Earlier this year, the Attorney General’s Office and the Stockton Unified School District reached an agreement to address system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of African-American and Latino students and students with disabilities. Shortly after the agreement, Attorney General Becerra issued an alert to remind schools throughout the state of their legal obligations to protect the civil rights of all students.
Attorney General Becerra encourages those with information regarding suspected practices in violation of state or federal law in schools to report them to the Bureau of Children’s Justice in the California Department of Justice Civil Rights Enforcement Section, through the online complaint form located at https://oag.ca.gov/bcj/complaint, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copies of the final judgment and complaint are available here and here.