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ACLU to seek state intervention at 2 other LAUSD high schools

Craig Clough | October 15, 2014

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson speaks before the LA Unified school board on Oct. 14, 2014.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson speaks before the LA Unified school board yesterday.

Lawyers at the ACLU and Public Counsel plan to ask the state by tomorrow to intervene at LA Unified’s Dorsey High School and Freemont High School in a similar way that it stepped in at Jefferson High School.

The move comes after last week’s court-issued temporary restraining order (TRO) that required the state to fix an array of scheduling problems at Jefferson that led to several dozen students being placed in multiple free class periods with no educational value.

“We have documented [class problems] are present at Freemont and Dorsey. So we are proposing that the order that was issued as to Jefferson, if the defendants would agree, should be extended to those schools as well,” David Sapp, a lawyer for ACLU Southern California, told LA School Report.

Fingers have been pointed in different directions by the teachers union, the administrators union and the district as to who is responsible for the Jefferson situation. Blame has been placed on administrative turnover, teachers not altering their schedule to reflect evaporating grant funds and the district’s troubled MiSiS computer system.

The ACLU and Public Counsel represent plaintiffs in the Cruz. vs. California case that accuses the state of failing to provide an adequate education to students in nine California high schools by sticking them in free periods instead of real classes.

The TRO that was issued last week is part of the lawsuit and resulted in the LA Unified school board yesterday approving a $1.1 million plan to fix the problems, which includes adding more staff and extending the class day. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson appeared before the board and spoke in support the plan.

District officials also announced that an audit was being planned at other high schools to determine whether other students have been placed in multiple free periods as they have at Jefferson.

Sapp explained that if the state agrees to the stipulation of including Dorsey and Freemont in the TRO, a similar plan that was enacted by the state and LA Unified to for Jefferson would also be carried out at the other two schools.

“It would be the same idea of developing a plan that is appropriate to develop – it may not be the exact same plan because the circumstances at the schools may be different,” Sapp said. “But it’s the same idea, that the state is working with the district to make sure there is an appropriate action plan in place.”

Sapp said the plaintiffs’ lawyers are working to get the request to the state before tomorrow’s court hearing, when the state must submit a status report on its response to the TRO, and the plaintiffs must present a proposal for how the case should proceed.

“[Adding Dorsey and Freemont] is something that we are raising with the state defendants directly,” Sapp said. “We have not made that request to the court, and if we were to do that, we would have to file a whole other separate motion like we did as to the temporary restraining order at Jefferson. So depending on where things are by when we file the report tomorrow, in terms of the discussions with the state defendants, there may be something in our report about what the plan going forward for the other two high schools in LAUSD is, but at this point we don’t know what that would be.”

Superintendent John Deasy, in a letter to the court, supported the Cruz. vs. California lawsuit, but is currently in South Korea and unavailable to comment on the status of Freemont and Dorsey. Lydia Ramos, director of communications for LAUSD, said she had received no indication if Deasy would also support state intervention at Dorsey and Freemont.

“When [the plaintiffs make their request] then we can respond,” Ramos said.

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