Pass / Fail | So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Lawyers seek order to address scheduling issues at more California high schools

Jefferson High School students Dasianique Weeks, left, Starr Brock, and Oscar Carillo complained in 2014 about their dysfunctional schedules and staffing issues at their school.
Jefferson High School students Dasianique Weeks, left, Starr Brock, and Oscar Carillo complained in 2014 about their dysfunctional schedules and staffing issues at their school.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Listen to

Extra Audio:
Download this MB

Public interest lawyers filed Thursday for a court order to compel five high schools — two in Oakland and three in Los Angeles County — to fix the class schedules of students who they say are falling behind in their education.

Their motion in Alameda County Superior Court is part of the ongoing Cruz et. al. v. State of California suit filed last year in which students argued that their state constitutional right to an adequate education was violated. They said schools assign students to “service” classes in which they don’t do any academic work or “home” periods when they are sent home in the middle of the school day.

Judge George Hernandez Jr. ruled in favor of the students in October when he granted an order compelling state education officials to fix class scheduling problems at Los Angeles Unified School District's Jefferson High School, one of the schools listed in the Cruz lawsuit.

The principal at Jefferson High said 150 students were enrolled in service and home period classes at the beginning of the current academic year because the school didn’t have any courses that students hadn’t already taken.

Hernandez ordered officials to add more classes and lengthen the school day a half hour so students could catch up on lost learning time. Days after the ruling, state officials met with LAUSD to address Jefferson High’s scheduling problems. The LAUSD school board approved $1.1 million to pay for the fixes.

The lawyers argue in their latest motion that some of the courses assigned to students in the five schools are "in name only," and that no instruction takes place, no feedback is given and no learning takes place.

"While the State stands idly by, far too many low-income children of color are effectively taught that they are not worthy of a curriculum with content,” according to the motion filed by lawyers with Public Counsel Law Center, ACLU, and the Carlton Fields law firm.

ACLU lawyer David Sapp said the order being sought would direct the state to work with school districts to "ensure that all of their schools have course schedules for the students when school opens and aren’t using these fake classes to fill out students’ schedules.” 

The attorneys request remedies for L.A.'s Fremont High and Dorsey High, Compton High in Compton, and Castlemont High and Fremont High in Oakland.

At Jefferson High School, LAUSD hired three teachers and added more than a dozen classes, including college-level calculus. Students also are offered tutoring after school, and can use online options to make up the classes they failed.

The California Department of Education, State Board of Education, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson are defendants in the Cruz lawsuit.

The Department of Education, which Torlakson heads, said it would file a response next month and didn't immediately comment further. The state board also did not comment.

LAUSD said in a written statement that while it is not a defendant in the case, it has "taken reasonable steps to ensure that students are assigned to 'service' or 'home' periods in compliance with District policy." That includes assigning such classes when students are on track to graduate, for example.

The district also said it took necessary steps to ensure that schedules were completed before the spring semester.

Judge Hernandez may rule on the latest motion in April.