●●smf’s 2¢: The class action suit: Aho, et al v. Florida, et al is interesting in that the defendants – essentially the students of the Palm Beach School District hold the plaintiffs – the governor and other statewide electeds including the state Board of Ed – accountable for alleged local shortcomings in their education – not the local school board.
November 5, 2009 -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that state officials in Florida are failing to ensure that students in Palm Beach County get a high quality education, as evidenced by their poor graduation rates.
The state court suit filed in West Palm Beach names Gov. Charlie Crist, the Board of Education and several political leaders and alleges that they are violating a requirement in the Florida Constitution to provide a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality" education.
"Palm Beach County is clearly not upholding its responsibility to provide a quality education to all of its students when so many of them are not graduating," Chris Hansen, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement Thursday.
He added the issues in Palm Beach County are reflective of a national problem.
A spokesman for Crist did not have immediate comment.
Nat Harrington, a spokesman for Palm Beach County School District, said graduation rates have increased to 80 percent as a result of targeted initiatives.
“We know we still have work today, and are focused on getting that work done," said Harrington, who had not yet seen the ACLU's lawsuit.
The suit alleges a third to half of the county's students do not graduate on time with a regular diploma — well below state and national averages — and that graduation rates varied from 56 to 71 percent in 2006, depending on the methodology used to calculate them.
The ACLU also highlights the disparities between black, Hispanic and white student graduation rates. The gap between black and white graduation rates was 30 points over the past five years, the organization states, and 20 points between Hispanic and white students.
"All students, regardless of their age, race, special needs, ethnicity or gender, deserve an environment that breeds success, not failure," Muslima Lewis, director of the ACLU of Florida's Racial Justice Project, said in a statement.