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Perris Union High Schools Eliminate Student Wellness Supports & Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion



Attendees fill the meeting room as Perris Union High School District holds a special board of trustees meeting on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Perris, CA. (Image by P. Brown-Hinds, Black Voice News)


April 8, 2024

 

Dear Perris Union, High School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent:

 

This letter is in response to the recent decision by the Perris Union High School Board to eliminate the CARES Team (social workers, behavior specialists, substance abuse interventionists) and the Director of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department on March 5, 2024. As Perris Union High School District parents, students, community-based organizations, and other Perris community stakeholders, we are asking you, the Perris Union High School Board, per Education Code 35145.5 to put an item on the Board agenda to discuss the CARES Team and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion function including all personnel as soon as possible.

 

Following are reasons for this request:

 

1.    The California Department of Education required PUHSD to develop a solution for Significant Disproportionality in Hispanics with Disability Suspensions in the 2022 – 2023 school year. The district is to be monitored for 3-years.  A multifaceted solution was put into effect that included  “systems of support”.  Specifically, CARES Teams were created that included Assistant Principals as Conductors of the system, an MTSS counselor, Alternatives to Suspension (ATS), a social worker, behavioral health specialists, school counselors, program specialists, and substance interventionists along with support and training from the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in collaboration with Special Education, Pupil Services, Educational Services, and Fiscal Services.

 

The solution was working as of the 12/2023 report and even praised as an exemplary program by the Superintendent of the Riverside County Office of Education in his annual State of County Education address on March 6, 2024, the day after the elimination of the program staff. There was a 29% reduction in A1 and A2 suspensions, and a 55.8% reduction in drug related suspensions. On March 5, 2024, however, all members of the CARES teams were laid off as well as the DEI Director.  These are all of the primary interventionists. The Board has eliminated the solution to the suspensions problem. With new students, teachers, and staff entering the schools, there is a continued need to address the issues causing the suspensions. Without the CARES teams and the collaboration with DEI, the Board has created a pathway to increase student suspensions without the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS).  This action displays a lack of regard for students and defiance of the California Department of Education directive to provide a continuous solution that corrects an inadequacy over the entire period of the state monitoring. Harm to students will increase without this program and its staff.

 

2.    African American students report being called the “n” word and other derogatory terms in a threatening manner. But after African American students report these offenses, they don’t perceive the students who perpetrate these harms are being corrected because teachers and administrators trivialize these incidents, and the students continue to repeat the offenses. Conversely, teachers and administrators are quick to punish African American students for any infraction, immediately. Further, they have even heard teachers saying the “n” word. All of this is causing significant trauma to African American students and, quite likely, other student populations as well.  This demonstrates the urgent and critical need for the expertise provided by the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as well as the Cares team, beyond Significant Disproportionality Suspensions.  

 

3.    It was stated by a Board member in the March 5, 2024 meeting that the Director of DEI was not supposed to be eliminated until next year.

 

4.    Human Resources requested to have the DEI Director removed from the March 5, 2024 agenda.  But the Board kept it and subsequently approved the layoff.  This would indicate that there may have been sufficient funding to support this staffing.

 

5.    The State has a $4.7 billion Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) that has programming and funding for specific efforts at the district and school level. The district has been billing for Medi-Cal since at least 2019, which means that most of the CARES team could have been funded by Medi-Cal.

 

6.    Applied for the Communities School Grant application for $12.3 million to fund part of the CARES Team; at least half of the team’s funding. This is pending.

 

Perris Union High School District is a high degree of socio-economic disadvantaged students, is over 85% non-White, and is consistently low in student math and English scores while having high graduation rates.  The students are being made to suffer the injustice of reduced needed services to support their academic achievement and emotional well-being while transitioning into the world after graduation without the academic skills to support themselves.

We ask the Perris Union High School District to do the “wise” thing, instead of doing the “most harmful” thing, for students, teachers, and staff by reversing the layoffs of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Wellness Centers staff.  Allow the continued operation of the successful Multi-Tiered Systems of Support that are improving Disproportional Suspensions and students’ lives.

Sincerely,

Concerned Parents, Students, and Community Members

of Perris Union High School District

 


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