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JUST IN: Judge orders state intervention at Jefferson HS

Craig Clough | October 8, 2014

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Judge Rolf Treu affirm vergara decision* UPDATED

A California superior court judge ordered the state to step in at LA Unified’s Jefferson High School and fix an array of scheduling problems that have left many students without proper classes and educational time since the school year began in August. 

In his decision, Alameda Superior Court Judge George Hernandez, Jr. wrote that “the court finds that unless the court issues a temporary restraining order, plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury before the matter can be heard on formal notice.”

He also assigned blame on the district’s new MiSiS student-data tracking system, saying “scheduling failures were due in part to Jefferson’s (and/or LAUSD’s) inability to implement new scheduling software.”

The temporary restraining order request was made by Public Counsel and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California as part of of Cruz v. California, a bigger case that asks that the state be compelled to assure the quality of education for students from nine schools around California.

As a result of today’s ruling, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the state Department of Education and the state Board of Education must work with the district to ensure that the school place limits on amount of course periods without instruction at Jefferson, prohibit students from being placed in courses that they have already taken and passed, and to develop a plan to compensate the students for lost learning time, Kathryn Eidmann, a staff attorney with Public Counsel and a lead counsel on the case, told LA School Report.

Eidmann also said in the ruling Hernandez “recognized that students at Jefferson are being deprived of their equal educational opportunities that they are constitutionally entitled to because of the amount of learning time they have lost and are continuing to lose.”

Hernandez directly ordered LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy to work with state representatives, starting with a meeting no later than Oct. 13. Deasy was also ordered to identify the resources needed to address the scheduling problems and help develop a remediation plan to be presented to the LA Unified school board when it next meets, on Oct. 14.

It’s unclear if Deasy or someone he appoints would carry out the orders. He is scheduled to leave for South Korea tomorrow on an eight-day cultural trip.

Deasy applauded the judge’s ruling.

“I am very pleased and encouraged that the judge recognizes that the efforts we have made by policy in this District need to be followed,” he said in a statement. “We are working with Jefferson High School’s staff to remedy the issues to ensure that all students’ academic needs are being met. And we look forward to meeting state officials to explain the new resources needed.”

He added, “This is another victory for youth in challenging circumstances. This is why I fought two years ago to have students have a full schedule, and why we are trying to negotiate the right to set a master schedule that meets individual school needs. We especially look to State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to support full and rigorous schedules for all youth.”

The lawsuit began in May with plaintiffs from seven schools, but Hernandez allowed a request that Jefferson and LA Unified’s Dorsey High School be added to the case on Monday, Eidmann said. In a letter to the court, Deasy wrote that he supported the lawsuit.

In Cruz, the plaintiffs are claiming that they “receive far less meaningful learning time than their peers in most California public schools,” and that as a consequence they “have been denied and continue to be denied their right under the California Constitution to receive an education that is not substantively inferior to the education received by other students in California public schools.”

“The buck stops with the state,” said Mark Neubauer, a lawyer for the Jefferson students. “The state has the ultimate responsibility to fix this. It’s their burden, by the California constitution.”

Eidmann said Public Counsel was pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“We’re thrilled that the rights of the Jefferson students have been vindicated and recognized by the court,” Eidmann said.

* Adds Deasy comments

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