Press Releases

October 08, 2014

Judge Orders State to Restore Lost Learning Time for Los Angeles Students at Jefferson High School

OAKLAND - A state judge has ordered that California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the California Department of Education and the State Board of Education must step in to stem the loss of learning time at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles.

Click here to read the order: http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/0551.PDF

Students at Jefferson High School have lost weeks of learning time due to scheduling chaos that has left students assigned to the incorrect classes, faux classes called "Service" periods, "College Class" or "Adult Class" that provide no instruction, or simply been sent home because no classes are available. Jefferson High School is one of nine high-need schools named in Cruz v. California. 

Cruz v. California is 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.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge George Hernandez Jr. issued a temporary restraining order today requiring the state to ensure that students who are academically behind or missing courses necessary for graduation or college entry are not placed into content-less "service classes" or sent home. The order also requires that the State ensure students are not placed into courses they have already passed, and do not attend overcrowded classes.

"I spent three weeks of school without the class I needed, and it is tough to catch up with the kids who have had the class since the first day," said Jason Magaña, a senior at Jefferson High School and plaintiff in Cruz v. California, who was assigned a graphic design class he had already passed instead of an economics class he needed to complete his graduation requirements. Magaña also has two "home periods" where he is sent home at 11:20 a.m. instead of taking classes he wants. "It is frustrating to me that there are no classes I can take for eighth or ninth periods. If I stay at school, I feel like I have nothing to do. I am just sitting there."

"Lost learning time isn't just a problem for students at one school or school district, it is a problem for our whole state. When the state fails to make sure students have time to learn, it turns its back on a basic element of education. The judge's order today affirms what we said when we filed the lawsuit: Only the state superintendent and board of education have the power to intervene for all students, those at Jefferson and at the eight other schools in our lawsuit," said Mark Rosenbaum, director of Opportunity Under Law at Public Counsel. 

"The situation at Jefferson is extreme, but it's also typical of students at schools that have been ignored by the state for too long. Students in meaningless make-work service periods and home periods lose days and weeks of their education. They have been losing time for years, many since elementary school and we need a new attitude from our state leaders that all students deserve the same opportunity to learn," said David Sapp, director of education advocacy at the ACLU of Southern California. 

"The State stood by for months while students at Jeffersonsat in classes they had already passed, made copies instead of learning math, and were sent home midway through the school day. Students, parents, and teachers deserve better. Today's ruling recognizes that the State must ensure that all California students have a chance to graduate, attend college, and succeed," said Kathryn Eidmann, staff attorney at Public Counsel. 

"The State cannot pass the buck and blame the local school districts," said Mark Neubauer, shareholder in Carlton Fields Jorden Burt's Los Angeles office. "It is the State's responsibility, pure and simple. And a responsibility it has not fulfilled."

Cruz v. California is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation.

Click here to read key documents about Cruz v. California: http://www.publiccounsel.org/pages/?id=0085