Education

Judge declines to order officials to rid high schools of 'phantom' classes

Students at Jefferson High School were scheduled in classes that had no academic content, which prompted a judge in part to order officials to step in. But he turned down a request that would essentially expand the order to other schools.
Students at Jefferson High School were scheduled in classes that had no academic content, which prompted a judge in part to order officials to step in. But he turned down a request that would essentially expand the order to other schools.
David McNew/Getty Images

Bay Area Superior Court Judge George Hernandez has denied a request from public interest lawyers to order state and school district officials to eliminate classes with no academics and enroll students in real courses at six Northern and Southern California schools.

The April 17 ruling is part of the ongoing Cruz v. State of California lawsuit filed last year. Public interest lawyers filed the suit on behalf of public school students who accuse state officials, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, of denying them an equal education as guaranteed in the state constitution.

The lawsuit claims that schools in Los Angeles, Compton, Oakland, and Richmond enroll students in “home” periods or “service” classes that are devoid of academic content because school administrators did not create enough actual classes for students. Lawyers for the state have argued that students willingly enrolled in these classes.

In October, Hernandez ordered education officials to make improvements in class scheduling at Los Angeles Unified's Jefferson High, one of the schools named in the Cruz suit. Conditions there have improved after expenditures of about $1 million, students and teachers said in February, although the work continues.

Defendants’ lawyers hoped the judge would issue a similar ruling for five other high schools named in the suit, including Los Angeles Unified's Dorsey and Fremont high schools and Compton Unified's Compton High School.

“We're disappointed with the ruling, but we remain confident about the case,” said Marie Condron, Public Counsel spokeswoman, in an email.

Hernandez said in his ruling that the defendants’ lawyers had not done enough to show that students at the schools lost substantial learning time compared to similar schools.