By Fermin Leal | EDSOURCE TODAY |
FERMIN LEAL/EDSOURCE TODAY Briana Lamb, a former student at Fremont High School in Los Angeles, talks to reporters about the Cruz v. California settlement agreement.
Nov 5, 2015 | The State Board of Education approved on Thursday an agreement that will require the state to provide immediate assistance to six California high schools where students claimed they lost valuable instruction time because they were placed in so-called “sham” classes.
The agreement settles the Cruz v. California lawsuit, filed last year by students in high schools in Compton Unified, Los Angeles Unified and Oakland Unified. These students were regularly assigned to multiple classes where they were told to sit idly in classrooms or perform menial tasks, including picking up trash or cleaning erasers. Some students were also sent home as part of the class period.
The lawsuit alleged that the state failed to intervene when scheduling problems and inadequate course offerings at schools resulted in some students spending weeks in classes during which they received no instruction.
This lawsuit “was the first in the nation to address the denial of equal learning time to children residing in many of California’s most disadvantaged communities and attending many of the most underperforming public schools,” said Mark Rosenbaum, lead attorney representing the two dozen plaintiffs and their families.
“These students courageously took on the state of California to end the practice of assigning students in courses with literally no content whatsoever.”
The settlement agreement, which a judge is expected to ratify later this month, coincides with the passage last month of AB 1012. The law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown prevents high schools from enrolling students in classes that lack any educational content for more than one week each semester. The law takes effect July 2016.
Under the agreement, the state Department of Education will:
- Offer technical assistance and support to the six schools if there are major scheduling problems during the next two years.
- Create a statewide student information system to track instances of schools assigning students to classes that lack instruction.
- Issue a policy alert advising all California districts of the requirements of AB 1012.
“These students courageously took on the state of California to end the practice of assigning students in courses with literally no content whatsoever,” said Mark Rosenbaum, attorney representing the plaintiffs.
The suit was filed in May 2014 on behalf of Jessy Cruz, who was then a student at Fremont High School in Los Angeles, by public interest law firm Public Counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt.
Students from five other high schools – Dorsey and Jefferson in Los Angeles Unified, Compton in Compton Unified, and Fremont and Castlemont in Oakland Unified – later joined the suit.
Plaintiff Briana Lamb, a former student at Fremont High in Los Angeles and currently a sophomore at Cal State Northridge, said the lawsuit settlement and AB 1012 will mean fewer students will struggle like she did to graduate.
“In high school, I missed out on a lot of classes I didn’t even know I was supposed to take,” she said. “I was repeatedly assigned to fake classes while no one, not even my counselors, told me I was falling behind. I felt like my school had given up on me.” Lamb eventually researched on her own the courses she needed to complete to apply to college and spent two summers taking extra classes to catch up.
Los Angeles Unified officials released a statement Thursday saying that many of the scheduling issues that led to students being placed in these courses have since been resolved.
“We are pleased that the plaintiffs and state defendants have agreed that there is no need to proceed with the case, recognizing that the district has adequately addressed the issues raised in the lawsuit once it was brought to our attention,” the statement said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the settlement will allow the state to better target schools that may have potential scheduling problems.
“We believe every student should have access to high-quality courses so they can succeed in 21st century careers and college,” said Torlakson in a written statement. “This settlement reaffirms my commitment and the California Department of Education’s commitment to help identify and coordinate local resources for districts with significant problems scheduling students.”
Fermin Leal is the college and career reporter for Edsource
It was the court-ordered state intervention by the judge in Cruz v.CA – the failure to respond from the District and the fallout and public outcry therefrom – sparked by the August-Oct MiSiS Crisis of 2104 - that led to to forced resignation of John Deasy as superintendent of LAUSD.
from the LA Times of 10/8/2014:
“Student schedules must be corrected and additional instructional time provided as necessary, (Judge) Hernandez wrote in his 14-page decision (requiring state intervention at Jefferson High School) . He said the state must ensure that "there are adequate teachers, classrooms, seats, desks and instructional materials and any other resources needed."
“The state also must determine whether the Los Angeles Unified School District has the resources to correct the problems. If it doesn't, he said, the state must fill in any gaps "financial or otherwise."
“The ruling was a rebuke both to L.A. Unified — for mishandling the situation at Jefferson — and the state, for its unwillingness to get involved.
“L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy had offered a declaration in support of Jefferson students last week and, on Wednesday, hailed the ruling.
"This is another victory for youth in challenging circumstances," he said in a statement. "We look forward to meeting state officials to explain the new resources needed."
“The judge, however, did not spare Deasy or the Board of Education from criticism.
"Jefferson's scheduling issues and the resulting chaos have been widely publicized and communicated," the judge wrote. Despite the public attention, he said, "scheduling problems still persist and, more importantly, there is no evidence of any organized effort to help those students who have been assigned to courses several weeks into the semester to catch up to their peers."
“The judge also chided Deasy, saying "he does not admit to knowing" about Jefferson's scheduling problems "or describe any actual or anticipated efforts by LAUSD to remedy them."
“Deasy initially downplayed difficulties with the new records system across the district, but then assigned a team of senior administrators to address them. He did not recount these measures in his declaration to the court.”