Here is the Kingsburg School District Administration Building, where community members expressed their concerns despite threats. Photo by Jesse C. Gonzales

The Problem in Kingsburg

By Jesse C. Gonzales

Here is the Kingsburg School District Administration Building, where community members expressed their concerns despite threats. Photo by Jesse C. Gonzales
Here is the Kingsburg School District Administration Building, where community members expressed their concerns despite threats. Photo by Jesse C. Gonzales

“In Texas, they lynch negroes.” This line from The Great Debaters, delivered by James Farmer Jr., sends a clear message of a practice from a period in time that forever remains a dark blemish on the image of the United States. It is a historical fact from a not-too-distant past that the government attempts to downplay and that Americans of European ancestry prefer not to speak of.

Lynching was not a practice reserved specifically for Blacks; it was also used to terrorize early Mexican landowners into abandoning their lands. It can be said that it was used as a tool mainly by those of European ancestry to systematically eradicate people of color and drive them from the community. In modern times, psychological lynching has the same effect as the lynchings of past times.

In Kingsburg, the use of psychological lynching is prevalent and in some cases supported by members of governing bodies such as the Kingsburg Police and the Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District. Prior to Sept. 13, 2013, complaints by district employees claiming disparate treatment, harassment ad use of double standards were not uncommon.

A typical grievance by an employee was often handled in a roundabout way with little being done to actually remedy the problem or address the issue. Generally speaking, employees felt that issues were being handled in a circular methodology that made no sense, fell short of following established policy as per union agreement and served only to foster a hostile work environment.

On or about Sept. 13, 2013, through Jan. 10, 2014, a series of events occurred that amplified the claims by the employees alleging the use of a double standard by the Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District administration that was used whenever it was convenient. Through the production of documents, endless testimony and the nebulous practices of the administration, the allegations that were being made became more probable than not. In other words, the circumstantial evidence presented strengthened the argument and claim by the employees rather than weakened it.

When members of the administration were approached and asked questions concerning an allegation of an employee carrying a loaded gun on school grounds while at work they stated the allegation was untrue. They then said that although the employee did have a gun it was not on campus or school property. Next, they said that even though the employee did have it on school property there were no children present. Later, they said that although there were some children present, they shouldn’t have been there because it was their day off.

Upon closer review, it was found that several children were having a ballgame at that time. Kingsburg has no established recreational areas, so the children visit the school grounds to use the basketball courts, play soccer or have a game of baseball. The concerned parents and taxpayers asked about enforcing the “zero” tolerance policy under the employee rules of conduct.

The statement released by the administration states that no breach of policy existed, therefore termination of the employee was not justified. After a closer review of the facts, it was found that the employee was under strict probationary rules, to which the policy clearly indicates that the only solution is termination.

When the chief of police was questioned why there had not been an arrest as prescribed by state law, he claimed that it took too long for the accident to be reported. However, eyewitness accounts say that the incident was reported but the administration did not move on it in a timely manner. It was not reported until the employees themselves, who also happen to be parents, went to the police station and filed a report. Thus, the discrepancy in regard to the time element becomes an issue making the reporting employee’s allegation invalid.

It was then reported that the same employee was heard to refer to students of color as “wet-backs” or “monkeys.” And still another time, the same employee was seen making sexually suggestive gestures with his hands to describe the anatomy of female students. Under the current policy, this behavior is grounds for immediate termination.

The administration disregarded its own policy and suspended the employee with partial pay and accepted his promise that he would “never do that again.” This enraged parents of color and some White parents, but the administration remained unmoved. This has caused great injury to the community, which now has to worry if someday the employee fails to keep his promise.

Because this series of events has now become public, the employees that first witnessed the incident have been written up, verbally reprimanded and have been told that if they speak to the media they could face disciplinary actions or termination. At last report, some were being investigated for possible legal action for slander and defamation by the employee who started the whole affair. The administration has put all employees on notice to stop talking about the incident.

In Kingsburg, they still lynch.

*****

Jesse C. Gonzales is a longtime resident of the Central Valley. He has been actively involved in social issues since “Johnny” Kennedy was president. Contact him at jesse_c_gonzales@hotmail.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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