During a March Lassen Union High School District Board meeting, concerned parents, family members and the public said Lassen High School’s administration took different disciplinary actions against five students involved in the same incident — handing out stiffer penalties to three students of color than those suffered by two White students, and that is discrimination.
In its Sept. 20 decision, the California Department of Education determined, “Although the Local Educational Agency disciplinary decisions may not have been motivated by race and/or ethnicity, the evidence supports that the LEA’s disciplinary decision had a disparate impact on Student A and other students of color involved in the incident. Under the specific circumstances of this case, the use of disproportionate discipline resulted in discrimination based on race or ethnicity in violation of EC Section 220. Pursuant to 5 CCR, Section 4633(f)(2), the CDE finds that the LEA’s conclusion that the LEA did not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity is not consistent with law.”
In response to that finding, the CDC directed, “the LEA shall provide CDE with evidence of the following: The LEA has provided training for all school staff in the following: Students’ right to be free from discrimination based on race or ethnicity.”
LHS Superintendent/Principal Morgan Nugent responded to the CDE report.
“We have a training scheduled in January,” Nugent said. “Unfortunately, there was a situation that occurred, and we’re addressing any issues that did arise… We were looking at how we can improve our interaction with the community even prior to this. We’ve been working on trying to get more representation on our school boards. We’ve been looking at how to incorporate more cultural activities here at the high school … and we’ve been looking at what we can do to make sure that all of our students have equal access to a quality education.”
Background on allegations
Christi Choo, a Native American resident of Susanville who graduated from LHS in 1975 and retired from the Lassen County Office of Education after 35 years of service, was the first to address the board back in March regarding the Feb. 23 incident in the parking lot involving Orbi and airsoft guns.
“Recently … the district superintendent and dean of students supported the suspension of three minority students and issued a warning to two Caucasian students for the same violation and allowed one of these students to play in a section championship game,” Choo told the trustees. “Where is the justice in that? If all five students violated the same alleged offense, why were there separate punishments? From my view, this is racism. This is a very powerful word, and a word not to be taken lightly.”
One of the student’s parents filed a complaint alleging discrimination of the basis of race or ethnicity on March 14 in that “two White students had their suspensions overruled and the three minority students (Hispanic/Native American/Korean) did not.”
The parent filed an appeal of the LEA’s June 13 investigation on July 15 alleging “The LEA filed to follow its complaint procedure.” According to the CDE, the parent “is not upset that Student A was disciplined for his part in the incident but believes everyone involved should have received the same amount of discipline.”
According to the CDE, “The three students ultimately suspended were students of color, including Student A, while the two students not suspended were white,” and that is “discrimination based on race or ethnicity,” according to the California Education Code.