Update (May 2):
A Sacramento City Unified School District middle school teacher quit her job last week, nearly a year after she was recorded using racial slurs in class.
The district said it found the teacher, Katherine Sanders, used racial slurs in class and continued doing so during the investigation. She resigned effective April 30, rather than continue with the investigation.
“We must continue to confront and interrupt racism so our schools can stay focused on creating equitable learning opportunities for all students,” said SCUSD superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar in the press release, adding that the district has implemented anti-racism training for all staff.
The Sacramento City Unified School District is starting the termination process for a middle school teacher who was recorded using racial slurs in class last May, the district said Thursday.
The teacher, Katherine Sanders, taught seventh-grade Spanish at Kit Carson International Academy. Sanders was placed on unpaid leave in December of last year, despite community action calling for her termination last summer, organized by local advocacy group Voice of the Youth and the district’s African American Advisory Board.
“The district’s position is very clear, that they think her conduct rose to a level that required her immediate termination,” Mark Harris, the district’s race and equity liaison, said.
But per district policy, Sanders still has an opportunity to appeal the termination.
Harris, whose role is to investigate racial incidents occurring within SCUSD, said that the district had already been moving toward firing Sanders before he assumed his position Jan. 22 and that he would continue to push for termination in the case of a Sanders appeal.
“Sacramento Unified is coming pretty close to a zero tolerance set of policies relative to behavior consistent with the behavior at Kit Carson,” he said. “So that was already in motion before I got there, I think my hiring was an exclamation point on that.”
Berry Accius, founder of Voice of the Youth, said it was community pressure to fire Sanders that drove the district’s decision to begin terminating Sanders, along with media coverage of West Campus High School students vandalizing the school’s gym with racist graffiti and threatening the vice principal.
“I really believe that the only reason why it swayed in a way where they had no choice but to fire is because Sac City Unified right now is up to their ears with multiple infractions, multiple actions, allegations and situations in their schools,” he said. “This is something I think they wanted to get off of their bucket list.”
He said the investigation process was “very flawed” and already “way too long, way too tedious.” To Accius, initiating the termination process isn’t a victory — it indicates how much more work needs to be done in the district.
“We’ve been dealing with this racist culture in the Sac City Unified District for decades,” he said. “You need to put policies in place that directly say ‘zero tolerance for certain hate speech, hate words’ and literally move individuals who are delaying progress.”
Along with Sanders’ actions last summer, the district’s anti-racial bias training came under scrutiny — a sentiment that wasn’t new. In a 2018 letter to the district, the Sacramento City Teachers Union critiqued the district’s anti-racist program being a “district-centered” instead of a “student/teacher/community oriented approach.”
In August, the SCTA negotiated two mandatory days of anti-racist and implicit bias training for teachers during the 2021-22 school year.
“We have been advocating for years,” SCTA president David Fisher said via email. “We proposed to include the Black Parallel School Board, but the school rejected that idea.”
Accius said that he’d also like to see more district support for the Black Student Union and, by extension, Black student empowerment, along with the inclusion of Black faculty and parents in future racial equity trainings.
“It’s not only a Black thing, it’s just unfortunately, African Americans are being targeted disproportionately and their voices are silenced when they speak out,” he said.
Harris, the district's new race and equity liaison, was brought on to handle both the Sanders and West Campus investigations. He said in a previous interview with CapRadio that he’d like to do everything he could “to identify racist acts that need to be eradicated going forward.”
The West Campus incident is still under investigation, Harris said.
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