Saturday, April 19, 2008

PARENTS SIGNAL LAWSUIT AGAINST L.A. SCHOOLS AFTER BREWER DENIES REQUEST: Group of mostly Black parents retain civil rights attorney in battle against i-Division program

By OLU ALEMORU, Staff Writer | Los Angeles Wave newspapers

17.APR.08 - WESTCHESTER — Parents fighting to hold a re-election that tagged their school for a new Los Angeles Unified School District academic program have sought representation from a noted trial attorney to sue the district after LAUSD Superintendent David L. Brewer denied their request.

The predominantly Black group of parents at Cowan Avenue Elementary School here have had preliminary discussions with Anthony Willoughby, a senior partner at the law firm of Willoughby and Associates.

Willoughby, whose firm specializes in the areas of civil rights, business and criminal litigation, was honored in 1993 by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as Civil Rights Advocate of the Year.

According to parent spokeswoman Gerald Riberio, Willoughby, who was unavailable for comment, has written to Brewer “putting him on notice.”
As reported in The Wave last week [4/10/08: PARENTS WARN OF POTENTIAL LAWSUIT OVER LAUSD VOTE], parents want a re-vote into the March 5 balloting that voted Cowan to join the LAUSD’s controversial Innovation Division, or iDivision.

The program matches a family of campuses — a high school and all of its “feeder” schools at the elementary and middle school levels — with a network partner in a bid to improve academic performance. In the case of the group that includes Cowan Avenue, the partner would be Loyola Marymount University.

On the day the election took place, a bomb scare was reported, resulting in 145 parents not casting their votes, and prompting calls for a re-run election.

However, in a letter to the school dated April 10, Brewer informed parents that he would not authorize a re-vote citing a number of reasons for his decision.

“First, I asked the LAUSD Legal Department to review this matter from a legal perspective,” he wrote. “After completing a thorough review of the matter by LAUSD counsel and an independent outside counsel, they each concluded that we were not required to hold another vote as a matter of law.”

The letter goes on: “An important determining factor in the mind of the outside expert is that of the 131 students who left school that day because of the bomb scare and did not return, 81 of those students’ parents did indeed cast a vote.

“The percentage of student absentee parents who voted was consistent with the overall voting percentage, which was approximately 60%. These three factors led me to conclude that there was not a sufficient denial of fundamental fairness in the process and a new vote is not necessary.”

Brewer concluded that some parents will be unhappy with his decision, but hopes the community can move forward with the iDivision program.

“Many parents feel angry and betrayed,” said Riberio. “Willoughby’s letter has put Brewer on notice that the battle has just begun. We plan to file an injunction and go to court on this issue.”

No comments: