Your Monthly News & Updates, Vol. 40

Congratulations to all of our health advocates on a successful enrollment season!

The uninsured rate has dropped to a historic low of 7.3 percent in California compared to 17 percent in 2017. In Kern, the uninsured rate is currently 7.4 percent and this drop is due to the hard work of health care advocates across the county. 

Our partners are using non-traditional methods to enroll families. During the past few months, our partners held a series of enrollment events at the Valley Plaza Mall to expand health access to families across Kern. 

According to Community Health Initiative, the number of Kern residents enrolled in Covered California increased by 44 percent compared to last year's enrollment period, which includes enrollment from Nov. 1 to Jan 31.

Unless a person has a qualifying life event the next open enrollment period will most likely be November 1, 2018. Residents can enroll in Medi-Cal year-round. 

Thanks to our health care advocates for your work towards improving health outcomes in our community.

For more information call Clinica Sierra Vista at (661) 328-4245 or Omni Family Health at (661) 459-1900.

Kern County's CAO announces improvements to South Kern parks during BHC-Kern meeting

On Feb. 8, Kern County's Chief Administrator Officer spoke at Building Healthy Communities Kern's monthly all action team meeting where he shared the priorities for the county's budget and announced several improvements to Lamont, Greenfield, and Rexland Acres parks. 

All three parks will receive soft-surface playgrounds, resurfaced basketball courts, shade structures, and all communities will receive a concentrated effort to remove graffiti in the parks.

BHC-SK's Comunidades Unidades Action Team has been advocating for these changes, among others, for the past year.

"This was great to hear. We have been working with the county for over a year and these changes give us hope. These changes reaffirm the power of collaboration," said Gustavo Aguirre of Center on Race Poverty and the Environment.

" We are thankful and welcome these changes, but the real change will come as our power builds, voices rise and advocacy grows," Aguirre said. "These neighborhoods and families are current beneficiaries, but there is much more that needs to be done in our communities, which have been historically disinvested in to improve health outcomes for all. Residents are now at the table, and we won't stop until the work is done."

Kern delegation shines at Equity On the Mall 2018

BHC-SK partners traveled to Sacramento to lift up issues impacting vulnerable communities across the county and the Central Valley. 

"Our health is impacted by the air, water, and oppressive systems that have been in place for decades," said Valerie Gorospe of Center on Race Poverty and the Environment, who traveled 10 hours in a bus and spoke during the event. "The industry that our economy depends on harms human health. Residents in the Valley look to the state for protection when local officials do not do so. Kern County is the heart of the state, and should be a priority of the state."  

This year was Gorospe's first time attending the event, which was organized by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation and San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, a partnership of over 70 organizations and 11 foundations. 
"It is important for our communities in Kern County to join other San Joaquin Valley community members, leaders, and groups to stand and support each other on many issues that impact our families and communities. It's vital that the San Joaquin Valley supports and lifts each other up while we build power in lifting up the issues that we face on a daily basis. Our communities have the power to continue making change." Gorospe said.    

Q&A: In the wake of the historic lawsuit settlement, KHSD still has more work to do to help students

Parents, students, teachers, and community advocates were among the attendees who packed the Kern High School District (KHSD) board chambers on the evening of Jan. 30 for the district's second community forum on school climate, a condition of the discrimination settlement agreement, which requires KHSD, among other things, to hold two community forums a year where administrators must present data related to suspensions, expulsions and involuntary transfers. The agreement also mandates that the district celebrate Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month and allow students to celebrate these events.

Sahar Durali, directing attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, which took part in the suit settlement answered a few questions about the progress the district has made with regard to school climate.

BHC-SK: This is the second KHSD community forum on school climate. In an over-arching sense, what progress has been made with regard to the lawsuit settlement? What needs to be improved?

SD: The district has made some progress with respect to reducing suspension, expulsion, and transfer numbers. However, the data released at the community forum demonstrates significant disparities still exist in discipline of students of color, especially African-American students. It appears the district has also moved forward with a more comprehensive implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), and more staff are being trained on PBIS, implicit bias, and social emotional learning concepts. However, KHSD board members have not been trained, and have not indicated whether or not they will participate in any trainings related to PBIS, implicit bias, and social emotional learning concepts.
The district should do more to reduce disparities in discipline. Additionally, during the forum it became evident that some schools still have alarmingly high suspension rates, especially for African-American students. Moreover, school climate surveys reveal that students of color feel especially racially harassed and isolated. The district should do more to address the racially hostile environment these students are facing.

BHC-SK: Now for some specifics with regard to the settlement: Why is KHSD not leading celebrations of Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, especially when these celebrations are so meaningful to create a healthy school climate?

SD: The District agreed to recognize Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month under the settlement. At the last two community forums, the District indicated it was recognizing these months by allowing students to celebrate them. Dr. Brenda Lewis [KHSD Assistant Superintendent of Instruction] also stated that the district had alerted administrators that they should permit students and student organizations to put on events. At no point did the district communicate that individual school sites or the District were leading their own events.
We believe this narrow interpretation of the settlement is at odds with the spirit of the agreement and the District's stated commitment to improve school climate for African-American and Latino students. By putting the burden on student clubs and student organizations to put on celebratory events, the District is sending an explicit message that Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are not a priority and are not worthy of District resources and staff time. Additionally, based on the District's communications, we suspect that at schools where student clubs are not active, and no student initiates celebrations, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are simply not being commemorated. It is standard practice for schools statewide and nationwide to put on events during these cultural months, and a commitment to celebrating Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month could go a long way to build trust and repair relationships with the Latino and African-American communities.

BHC-SK: As part of the agreement, the school district is required to train teaching and non-teaching staff on implicit bias. During the forum an attendee asked whether the KHSD board would be required to get this training as well. Do you feel that training the school board is important? Why or why not?

SD: Training the school board on implicit bias would demonstrate to the community that the Kern High School District is engaging in self-reflection and taking a meaningful step forward to eliminate bias at the highest levels of leadership.  

BHC-SK: The district has been successful at reducing expulsions and transfers rates, but we still see disparities when it comes to African-American students. What should KHSD do to address this?

SD: The settlement identifies the need to address racial disparities by requiring that the District address bias and implicit bias through training, review of policies and development of the behavior matrix. Rachel Godsil of the Perception Institute and Dr. Eddie Fergus were identified in the settlement agreement because of their expertise in this area, along with Dr. Nancy Dome. Their recommendations must be implemented by the District in a meaningful manner to make sure that these disparities do not continue. 

BHC-SK: In a survey conducted by the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), the percentage of African-American students who felt isolated and/or harassed at school due to their race or ethnicity in the 60 days prior to taking the survey jumped from 16 percent in 2016-17 to 19 percent in 2017-18. Clearly, KHSD needs to improve how it treats African-American students. Any specific suggestions, even beyond the settlement?

SD: Under the Local Control Funding Formula, school districts must create specific goals for numerically significant student subgroups in their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). At the KHSD, African-American students are a numerically significant subgroup. The district could follow in the footsteps of other school districts to create more targeted, comprehensive programs that create supports specifically for African American students. Additionally, the district should work with its commissioned experts, Rachel Godsil of the Perception Institute and Nancy Dome of Epoch Education, to identify the root of the expressed isolation of African-American students, and to work to eliminate harassment of these students by other students and/or staff. Both Rachel Godsil and Nancy Dome are leading experts in addressing implicit bias and racially hostile educational environments and could work closely with the district to create solutions at all levels.
BHC-SK: KHSD is a diverse district. Results from the CHKS suggest that the administration and staff have not done enough to embrace that diversity and ensure that all students are valued for who they are and the rich personal and cultural experiences they bring to the district. The settlement agreement addresses the training that staff may need to address these issues. How can KHSD address these discipline disparities?
SD: One way that KHSD could probably address discipline disparities and create a more inviting school environment for African-American students and other students of color is to ensure school staff are representative of their student body. The district made a commitment to recruit and hire a diverse staff in both the settlement agreement and their LCAP, which is the document that lays out their priorities for each school year and the budget expenditures related to those priorities. In fact, the LCAP specifically created a goal for hiring teachers that reflect the student demographics. However, of the new hires for the 2017-18 school year, 62.6% were white, 26.3% were Latino, and 2.6% were African American. In comparison to the demographic makeup of the student body, which is approximately 22% white, 65% Latino, 5.9% African-American, 2.6% Asian, 1.3% Filipino, and 2% identified as another race, the District is falling drastically short of their goal!

Kern's representatives don't score well on CEJA's newly released environmental scorecard

The California Environmental Justice Alliance just released their fifth Environmental Justice Scorecard, which evaluates how well California's elected officials supported actions to address environmental issues that impact low-income communities and communities of color.

Central Valley representatives, who have significant environmental justice constituencies in their districts, all scored below 70 percent.

Click here to download the full report. 
South Kern Sol kicks-off the new year with a new cohort!

The new cohort includes 17 youth reporters from Delano, Bakersfield, Greenfield and Lamont. 

South Kern Sol is a youth led community news website that aims at lifting up youth voice for health and racial equity. 

Click here to visit South Kern Sol's website.
'I know how victims feel': West High steps up to combat bullying

By Chyna Patz, South Kern Sol

West High School has a bullying problem.  

Walk around West High any school day and you can find somebody on campus who has been personally affected by bullying, or knows a student who has. I have tested this, and found that every student I had spoken to, had been subjected to bullying, at least once at West.

There have even been times when I have had to watch a close friend get called names, just for being gay. All I could do was hold them and tell them it would be alright.

I've had friends physically hurt by bullies, to the point where they felt unsafe coming to school.

  Click here to read the full story in the Bakersfield Californian.
We have the power to build healthy communities for the next generation! 

A #HealthyKernCounty benefits us all.