Press Releases

October 03, 2014

Continuing Crisis at Jefferson High School Prompts Los Angeles Students to Join Lawsuit Against California Over Lost Learning Time

LOS ANGELES -- Students at under-resourced California schools have asked a state judge to order the State of California and state education officials to take immediate action to resolve an ongoing crisis that has already caused students at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles to lose nearly two months of instruction.

Students at Jefferson High School have lost weeks of learning time due to confusion over master schedules, improperly assigned classes, faux classes called “service periods”  or because they have simply been sent home because no classes are available.

These problems are shared by students at seven other high-need California elementary, middle and high schools who are plaintiffs in Cruz v. California, a class-action lawsuit challenging California’s failure to provide meaningful learning time to students. Public Counsel and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed the lawsuit in May 2014 with pro bono support from the law firms Carlton Fields Jorden Burt and Arnold & Porter LLP.

The latest action asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order against the state of California and state education officials prohibiting them from standing idly by as Jefferson High School students lose the learning time that they need to graduate. Alameda County Superior Court Judge George Hernandez Jr. will hear the case on Monday, Oct. 6.

Click here to read key documents about Cruz v. California including declarations from students and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy: http://www.publiccounsel.org/pages/?id=0085

“I care about my education, but what are you going to do when this is what the school gives you?” asked Anthony Castillo, a Jefferson senior who had no schedule when he arrived at school, and sat in the auditorium for two weeks during fourth and ninth period. “I don’t go to school to sit around, I go to learn, to improve my chances of going to college, and to learn what to expect in college.”

“Students at Jefferson High School and other schools have been sitting in the auditorium or at home while students in more affluent communities are assigned college prep course loads. Students should not have to wait weeks for class schedules or be sent home to an unsupervised recess because no classes are available. What’s clear from the mess at Jefferson is that the California Superintendent of Public Instruction and state Board of Education don’t have the time of day for inner city students,” said Mark Rosenbaum, Director of Opportunity Under Law at Public Counsel.

"Like students anywhere, the students at Jefferson High School dream of graduating, attending college, and excelling. But these hopes are being crushed by the State's failure to provide them with the basic courses required for graduation and college entry, and the instruction time necessary to attain the skills necessary to succeed," said Public Counsel staff attorney Kathryn Eidmann.

“Nearly two months into the school year, this crisis continues, yet state officials are still sitting on their hands,” said David Sapp, Director of Education Advocacy for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  “Students at Jefferson are left with no choice but to ask a court to force meaningful action before an entire year of learning slips away.”

Hundreds of students showed up to Jefferson on the first day of school to learn that they had no assigned course schedule at all, and were sent to the school auditorium to wait until they received one. When students did receive their schedules, they learned that they had one or more empty class periods during which they were directed to sit in the auditorium with no instruction; were assigned to courses with misleading names such as “College Class” and “Adult Class” that also consisted of sitting in the auditorium with no instruction, were placed in courses they had already taken and passed, and were missing core requirements necessary for high school graduation and college eligibility.

Seven weeks into the school year, the hemorrhaging of learning time continues.

With no requirement or tracking of actual learning time, the state of California allows many students at underperforming schools to receive less education than students in higher performing schools.

The factors that conspire to rob time from students include classes euphemistically labeled service periods or inside work experience where students sacrifice classroom time to make copies, run errands, or socialize; the consequences of violence on campus that go untreated due to a lack of mental health services and trauma-sensitive strategies; delayed master course schedules that lead to a high level of transfers and improper class placement for weeks or months after the start of the school year; disproportionately high teacher turnover and rotating substitutes that create a cycle of lost learning time; and empty desks from student absences that are fueled by students’ feeling that the state has given up on them and their schools.

Cruz v. California is supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation.