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Lemoore Native American Students Experience 'Egregiously High' Rates of Suspension, Expulsion

Andrew Nixon - file photo
Capital Public Radio
The title of a new study about disciplinary action against Native American students suggests that public schools aren't applying cultural competency in their classrooms.

A recently published study says that Native American students in California experience suspension rates that are twice as high as the state average. The same study also found that expulsion rates of those students are particularly high in Kings County. 

The Sacramento Native American Higher Education Collaborative and the Community College Equity Assessment Lab at San Diego State University published their findings last month in a report called “From Boarding Schools to Suspension Boards: Suspensions and Expulsions of Native American students in California Public Schools.”

Using data from the California Department of Education, researchers found that Native American boys are 40 times more likely to be expelled from school in Kings County than in any other county in the state. 

“It really plays a significant, important factor in a student’s trustworthiness of their system, of education,” said Dr. Molly Springer, a co-author of the study. 

She says the high rates of discipline due to “willful defiance,” beg the question of bias. 

“What makes someone willfully disobedient?” she asks. “You have to question then, what does disobedient mean? Why are these classrooms set up to encourage a behavior that maybe isn’t culturally responsive or isn’t culturally competent,” says Springer. 

As the study’s title suggests, the disciplinary rates also remind her of a history of boarding schools meant to assimilate Native American students. 

Lemoore Union High School District is identified in the study as the “number one expulsion district for Native American boys and the number one expulsion district for girls.” According to state Department of Education data, presented in the California School Dashboard, 79 Native American students attended school in the district in 2018, and 29 percent of those students were suspended at least once.

Lemoore Union High school principal Rodney Brumit told Valley Public Radio he’s aware of the high discipline rates, and said the district is working with the Tachi-Yokut tribe in the area. He added that the district has boosted graduation rates among Native American students in his 17 years there. Lemoore Union High School has a 94 percent graduation rate overall.

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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