Reverend Shane Harris calls on County Supervisors to work to save San Pasqual Academy

UPDATE: San Pasqual Academy advocates come together to urge support of extending closure date

Shane Harris’ full press conference detailing the state of California’s response is below:

ESCONDIDO (KUSI) – San Pasqual Academy, a first-in-the-nation residential education campus designed specifically for foster youth, serves as a placement option for dependents of the Juvenile Court, 12-17 years old, and Non-Minor Dependents (NMDs) up to age 19 years old.

But now, San Pasqual Academy is facing permanent closure in October 2021 due to lack of funding.

The President & Founder of The People’s Association of Justice Advocates, Shane Harris, is an alumnus of San Pasqual Academy, and has been very vocal about how many lives it has changed for foster youth.

Harris credits San Pasqual Academy for changing his life, and providing him a safe place to grow up.

Harris shared some background on this situation, explaining, “back in 2015, there was a bill AB043, which was introduced by then Assemblymember Mark Stone and others, who really wanted to introduce a new angle to the child welfare system. The angle was that it was better to put kids in foster home settings, than group home settings, or congregate settings.” Harris described the difference between the two saying, “Congregate settings or group home settings are settings where there are multiple kids and youth in one particular place, or group home as we know it. When that bill took precedent it really began to kill some of these smaller, very effective kind of congregate settings, including San Pasqual Academy.”

He went on to praise San Pasqual Academy and everyone that helped make it the place it continues to be today.

Harris wrote a letter to the state of California, detailing his objection to permanently closing San Pasqual Academy. The state responded to his letter, and he will be releasing their response on his Twitter feed later. Harris’ complete letter can be read here.

Harris explained the state confirmed that San Diego County Supervisors do in fact have a hand in keeping San Pasqual Academy open, despite Supervisor Nathan Fletcher claiming it’s a state issue.

Fletcher’s words did not come lightly to Harris, who told KUSI’s Lauren Phinney on Good Morning San Diego, “the state told us, it is in fact an agreement between the county and the state, it never said the county couldn’t continue San Pasqual Academy, there just has to be willingness and courage to invest in San Pasqual Academy. It really made it clear Lauren, the county officials have actually been involved for quite a while in looking at the end of San Pasqual Academy, really not seeing it as effective.”

Harris went on to sharply criticize San Diego County saying, “what the county didn’t tell you, is that they stopped sending kids to San Pasqual Academy, they stopped sending kids to San Pasqual Academy over the last two years. They were preparing for a closure that the staff did not know about, that the students did not know about, and they kept information from people on that campus. So, the state really has reaffirmed our stance to the county, that they in fact, do have precedence. That County Chairman Fletcher, and Child Welfare Services Director Kim Giardina, do have precedence here to actually keep San Pasqual Academy open.”

Harris added that Supervisor Jim Desmond is going to be the first County Supervisor to visit San Pasqual Academy under this closure situation. Harris said he is thankful Desmond is taking the time to tour the Academy, and hear their concerns.

Reverend Shane Harris previewed his press conference and shared his perspective on the controversy surrounding San Pasqual Academy on KUSI’s Good Morning San Diego:

Harris released the following statement ahead of his press conference:

“County officials did not reach out to staff and leaders on SPA’s campus until two days before the media ran a story which was February 21st and the reason why was because they most likely didn’t really have a clear plan for the over 70 youth living on the campus. County Chairman Fletcher, the Board of Supervisors and the Director of Child Welfare Services Dr. Kim Giardina must apologize publicly for their non-trauma informed approach and reverse course immediately for the benefit of the 2500 youth they as Supervisors are responsible for within our county’s child welfare system. County Supervisors must educate themselves on the serious inequities that have inflamed during the COVID-19 pandemic facing the foster youth population by working with current and former foster youth to shape their policies around those voices instead of those who think they know what is best for the those in the foster care system.”

KUSI reached out to County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher for comment, and he supplied us with a letter from February 28, 2021, that he has been sharing with alumni and supporters of San Pasqual Academy. The complete letter can be read here.

Fletcher’s letter reads, “While the County of San Diego had no role in the loss of state license to operate San Pasqual Academy (SPA), I know how devastating this news has been on SPA students, alumni and supporters. I fully support requesting a 9 month extension to the ordered October 2021 closure. This would allow time for two more graduating classes and more than a full year to plan for a smooth transition. We can all work together to find solutions that meet the requirements of state and federal law and ensure we are protecting and nurturing the youth who are in our foster care system.”

RELATED STORY: ‘San Pasqual Academy is more than a school, it’s a home,’ says Professor Powell


Categories: California News, Good Morning San Diego, Local San Diego News, Politics