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You Say You Want a Revolution

Hillel Aron | July 23, 2012

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Ben Austin flanked by Desert Trails Elementary parents and their lawyer

A Superior Court Judge has ruled in favor of parents of Desert Trails Elementary, who now become the first parents in the country to successfully take over a public school under provisions of the new and controversial Parent Trigger law.

“People throw around the word historic a lot,” said Ben Austin, Executive Director of Parent Revolution at a press conference today. “Maybe some people on this stage. Maybe some people at this podium. But this is a historic day.”

The parents standing behind Austin, tears in their eyes, are “the first parents in America to win a Parent Revolution campaign, to take control of their kids’ destiny.”

“This is a big deal.”

A 2010 California law, passed in each legislature by a single vote each, grants parents the right to take over a failing school by getting a majority of parent signatures. The process was first tried in McKinley Elementary in Compton– the signatures were successfully gathered, but the drive was held up in court thanks to a technicality. The story is coming to a theater near you in a Maggie Gyllenhaal film, Won’t Back Down.

Parents of Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto, CA, were the second group to try their hands at the revolution, gathering signatures from about 70% of parents. The district and the union then sued to stop the process.

The judge’s decision was expected weeks ago. Every morning, parents and organizers would breathlessly check their e-mail. Finally, after two months, a manilla envelope arrived in the mail– as in the post office mail– on Friday afternoon.

Children from Desert Trails Elementary

“It looked like a college acceptance letter,” said Gabe Rose, Parent Revolution spokesman.

It was the judge’s decision. He ruled that signatures could not be rescinded if parents changed their mind– a big win for the parent trigger movement, which has now spread across the country. The judge ordered the school board and the union to accept the petition, and said that parents could immediately start planning a reconstitution of their school.

“If we’d lost, I don’t know if the movement could have gone on,” said an elated Austin.

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