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Antioch School Officials Agree to Collaboration to Address Civil Rights Complaint



Officials of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) have announced a groundbreaking effort to identify the causes of disparities in school discipline by examining the subtle, complex, and often-unintentional ways in which race, disability and discipline intersect.

“When the civil rights advocacy organizations raised concerns, our leadership team made a strategic decision to shift focus from a defensive mode to concentrating toward collaborating on the central theme and shared goal of student success. As the saying goes, think globally and act locally, and that is precisely what we are doing,” said Donald Gill, Superintendent of Schools in the Antioch Unified School District.

“The achievement gap and equity issues, national themes of importance and urgency, will receive concentrated attention in our District, and we hope to serve as a model for others who face similar challenges,” he said.

The school district will hire nationally recognized experts to conduct a wide-ranging review of the district’s disciplinary practices and special education services with particular attention to identifying implicit biases, stereotype threats, racial anxiety and other unconscious phenomena that could produce disparities.

“Implicit bias is a critical component of modern-day discrimination,” said Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society (EJS). “By recognizing that implicit bias hurts schoolchildren, the Antioch school district has taken the first steps to reverse the school-to-prison pipeline that too many Black children are forced into.”

Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society (EJS).

Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society (EJS).

The effort will also identify improvements in the identification of students with disabilities and the delivery of special education services and positive behavioral interventions to remediate behaviors that have led to inappropriate disciplinary action.

AUSD is responding constructively to the complaint that the district disproportionately suspends African American students and students with disabilities, despite denying these allegations.

Claire Smith, AUSD Board of Trustees President, said, “I am pleased to share that the Board of Education gave direction in closed session to accept a plan of action that will fortify our work in the areas of student equity and access and provisionally resolve the issues raised by the advocacy organizations.”

Willie Mims, Education Chair of the East County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which brought the complaint, said, “(The) disproportionate suspension of African American students greatly harms their chances for a quality education.”

Arlene Mayerson, Directing Attorney with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), added, “It is imperative that district provide students with disabilities all of the supports and services they deserve. Many of these suspensions can be prevented by providing these students with appropriate academic and behavioral services to address their needs.”


According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, African American students in AUSD represented 24.8 percent of the student population, yet received 57.3 percent of all suspensions and 61.4 percent of all expulsions.

Further, African Americans students were 35.5 percent of students with disabilities identified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), but received 69.3 percent of all suspensions and 76.2 percent of all expulsions to IDEA students.

The agreement responds to complaints of violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1963, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 brought on behalf of the East County Branch of the NAACP by DREDF, EJS and the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL).

“We are very pleased the district is taking the forward-looking steps contained in this agreement which will increase educational opportunity for all students in the district.” said NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris.

“Collaborating, communicating, solving problems and sharing goals will allow us to move forward positively to enhance our commitment to help all our students to achieve their potential,” said Superintendent Gill.

Bay Area

Spring Fling & Art Stroll readies for return to ‘The Point’



Steve Zwetsch of Cigar Box Kitchen Guitars will sell art collaborations such as this one for a good cause at the Spring Fling & Art Stroll. (Photo contributed)

By Kathy Chouteau

The Richmond Standard

Signaling that better weather is around the corner, Point Richmond’s “Spring Fling & Art Stroll” is returning to downtown Sat., April 8 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Held the day before Easter, the second annual event will see Park Place closed to traffic as children’s activities (11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.), a DJ (11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), dancing, fashion show, street vendors, Easter Bonnet Contest and an egg hunt get underway.

“Wear a hat and enter the Easter Bonnet Contest, activities and Easter Egg Hunt for kids, new round of outdoor art banners, browse sidewalk art vendors, view exhibitions in six local galleries, dine in local restaurants and more,” said organizers.

One artist who will be showcasing his collaborative artwork at the event is Steve Zwetsch of Cigar Box Kitchen Guitars. Zwetsch—who has been profiled as one of the Standard’s Fave Things”—will preview his “one-of-a-kind” art creations with nine of 13 local artists on cigar box guitars and ukuleles as part of the Local Artist Guitar Series.

Zwetsch said that the artists “painted, collaged or otherwise decorated” the guitars and ukuleles he made, with some of the materials—such as a folding chess board and drawer pulls—found at the El Cerrito Recycling Center, where he is currently the artist in residence. He said the works collectively took six to eight weeks to complete.

The following artists worked with Zwetsch on guitars/ukes that will be on display at the Spring Fling & Art Stroll, with “a portion of the proceeds [going] to local charities chosen by consensus of the artists,” per Zwetsch: Kaci Smith; Brian Mcgilloway; Laura Thiessen; Torreyanna Barley; Malik Seneferu; Dee Bell; Marvin Mann; Chris Morgan; and Gail Zwetsch.

He said 13 additional cigar box guitars are also currently being made as part of this series.

“This project has been really interesting and fun,” said Zwetsch about the endeavor. “Meeting all these talented artists and collaborating on one-of-a-kind pieces of playable art has been very fulfilling. I look forward to continuing this project through the rest of 2023 and into 2024.”

The Spring Fling & Art Stroll is hosted by a partnership among Arts of Point Richmond, Point Richmond Neighborhood Council and PRAM. Learn more at

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Bay Area

Richmond to Train Community Members to Respond to Low-Level 911 Calls

Trained community members could begin responding to certain low-level 911 calls in Richmond, as well as to calls into the non-emergency number, as part of a new program being developed by residents and officials. The city has released a survey (take the survey at to help design Richmond’s so-called Community Crisis Response Program.



Photo via Pexels
Photo via Pexels

The Richmond Standard

Trained community members could begin responding to certain low-level 911 calls in Richmond, as well as to calls into the non-emergency number, as part of a new program being developed by residents and officials.

The city has released a survey (take the survey at to help design Richmond’s so-called Community Crisis Response Program. The new community-based response system will focus on harm reduction strategies that better serve residents in need and enable traditional emergency responders to focus on violent crimes and serious crises.

Urban Strategies Council (USC), a nonprofit research and social justice organization, is supporting the effort by learning from Richmond residents’ experiences with the emergency response system, community crises, and community needs.

The need for a better emergency response in the community comes in the wake of actions by the Richmond Progressive Alliance-dominated City Council to defund the Richmond Police Department. From 2014 through last year, the RPD saw a 26% reduction in sworn officers.

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Bay Area

New Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez – History Making Latina

Supporters celebrated the victory of new Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez in the Berkeley Hills on Sunday, March 12, at the home of Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn. “She stepped up for all of us,” Hahn said. “She stepped up for Alameda County. She stepped up for our values.”



Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn (left) in her Berkeley Hills home hosts a meet-and-greet for new Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez. Photo by Carla Thomas
Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn (left) in her Berkeley Hills home hosts a meet-and-greet for new Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez. Photo by Carla Thomas

By Carla Thomas

Supporters celebrated the victory of new Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez in the Berkeley Hills on Sunday, March 12, at the home of Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn.

“She stepped up for all of us,” Hahn said. “She stepped up for Alameda County. She stepped up for our values.”

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arguin, the first Latino mayor of Berkeley, said he was Sanchez’s first supporter and called her a change agent.

“Representation does matter,” said Arguin. “It’s important that the people who hold these positions come from the county and represent the diversity of the county. She was the only one that had the courage to go against Sheriff Ahern.”

The meet-and greet-event gave Sanchez an opportunity to discuss her new role and hear from the community on the changes they wish to see within the department internally, and externally throughout the community.

“I know the damaging effects that poverty and lack of access to resources and support systems can have on communities and how that impacts crime and safety,” Sanchez said. “I am committed to leading the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office with the utmost integrity, serving the community equitably and inclusively, and making sure the agency ensures safety in the community by investing in it.”
Sanchez plans to transform the system by implementing partnerships that can provide transportation, housing, and resources for the re-entry population. She also plans to strengthen access to public health care and mental health resources within the jails.

“This is more than a job, it’s a mission,” said Sanchez who sees transformation for now and the future. “The younger generations can now see what’s possible.”

In June 2022, then-Deputy Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez surprised many by her outright win in a three-way race against a well-entrenched incumbent to become Alameda County’s next sheriff.

Sanchez actually raced against her own boss and won. Risking her career and livelihood, Sanchez credits hard work, prayers, and God for such a victory.
Once Sanchez took her oath on January 3, she became the first Latina and woman to ever hold the office, making history.

Retiree Dawn Sullivan who worked as a detective under Sanchez said she was a great supervisor and Sanchez’s rise was no surprise to her.

“I’m so proud of her, she had the courage to run against her boss,” said Sullivan. “She’s already done a lot, but the changes she will make will be great for so many in the department and the community.”

Born in Hayward, and currently living in Livermore with her husband, Todd, Sanchez says she is a proud stepmom of three daughters. She’s also proud to be a Latina with southern and Mexican roots. Sanchez says her mother moved from Texas to California and her father immigrated from Mexico.

“My family shaped my core values of integrity, respect, accountability, transparency and openness,” she said.

By the age of 14, Sanchez’s parents had divorced, lost their home, and she her siblings worked to “help mom make ends meet.”

At the age of 18, Sanchez says she worked three jobs until she got an entry-level role of Sheriff’s Technician within the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

In the Sheriff’s Office, Sanchez rose through the ranks for over 20 years, serving as Deputy Sheriff, Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain at the (North County Jail), and the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility (GEDDF). Before her election, Sanchez’s most recent role included Division Commander, managing the Santa Rita Jail facility in Dublin.

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