The Santa Barbara Unified School District does not have to put its implicit bias and cultural proficiency training contracts out to bid, according to Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle.

“The court finds that the decision of the SBUSD to enter into the JCCC Contracts without submitting them for public bidding was not arbitrary or capricious, nor was it entirely lacking in evidentiary support,” Anderle wrote in his ruling. “There was a reasonable basis for SBUSD’s actions in concluding that the services were not subject to the public bidding requirements.”

The school district has paid Just Communities Central Coast more than $1 million since 2013 to provide a variety of services centered on implicit bias and cultural proficiency. 

Just Communities Central Coast is a nonprofit organization that has partnered with the school district for several years to provide customized training, professional development and facilitation around issues of diversity, inclusion and equity. The district and the organization have three MOUs that call for training in the areas of equity and cultural proficiency, implicit bias training, and English learner and parent engagement. The cost of the combined contracts is $301,605.

Fair Education Santa Barbara filed a lawsuit in April that also alleges that the Just Communities curriculum is racist, radical, discriminatory and illegal, and that it violates various anti-discrimination laws. Anderele has not yet ruled on that part of the lawsuit. 

The court also rejected an allegation in the lawsuit that the contracts with Just Communities resulted from conflicts of interest because some district staff and employees have served in various capacities on the Just Communities board of directors over the years.

“I’m very supportive of the important work Just Communities Central Coast is doing for our students,” Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said. “The court’s ruling validates our selection of Just Communties Central Coast, and I look forward to a conclusion being reached in the remainder of the case.” 

Craig Price, the district’s legal counsel, said: “The judge has made it clear that a school district is empowered to determine what pedagogies it choses and follows in the instruction of its pupils. That is within the power of the school district and within the laws of the state. Based on evidence presented, the purpose of the JCCC programming is to narrow the persistent achievement gap, and that’s well within the district’s power to do so.”

Eric Early, the attorney for Fair Education Santa Barbara, said his legal team has tremendous respect for Judge Anderle, but that “the court blew it on this ruling.”

“Whoever originally authored the opinion appears to have had his or her mind made up before the analysis even began, and approached this with the intent to side with the district,” Early told Noozhawk in a statement. “This was much unlike the court’s previous ruling on SBUSD’s demurrer in which the court sided with FESB on similar legal positions. Relatedly, contrary to the spin being leveled by some against Fair Education Santa Barbara, the organization’s primary goal has always been to ensure that our next generation of kids of all races, creeds and colors are provided with the tools to succeed in America.”

Early said the statistics don’t lie. He said even after the district has paid Just Communities more than $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars during the past decade, 54 percent of the district’s minority students are not performing at grade level in English and math. He also said there has been a 41 percent increase in weapons-related suspensions during the past year. 

“JCCC and the district have massively failed the students, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if we flash-forward five or 10 years, the same SBUSD/JCCC indoctrination programs in issue will continue to suppress and contribute to the destruction of the futures of so many kids who SBUSD and JCCC claim to support,” he said. “Fair Education Santa Barbara will continue fighting for kids of all races, creeds, colors and sexual orientation, and is exploring all of its options with respect to the court’s incorrect ruling.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.