California Can’t Duck Minority Students’ Literacy Lawsuit

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has advanced a lawsuit filed against the state of California over poor literacy rates at schools in communities of color.

The lawsuit, Ella T. and Katie T. v State of California, was filed in 2017 by a group of parents who say the state hasn’t done its duty to educate their children given their low test scores. The families, represented by the pro bono firm Public Counsel and the law firm Morrison & Foerster, said California has not done enough or taken sufficient steps to improve literacy education and make sure it is available to all students – regardless of color or socioeconomic status.

Plaintiffs hail from La Salle Avenue Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Van Buren Elementary School in Stockton and Inglewood Unified charter school Children of Promise Preparatory Academy. They range in age from 6 to 14 and are all black or Latino.

One of the kids, 14-year-old Dylan O., is an eighth-grader at Van Buren Elementary School. An assessment test he took in seventh grade indicated he reads at an early second-grade level, placing him in the bottom 1 percent of students.

In her July 18 ruling, Judge Yvette Palazuelos declined the state’s request to toss the case for failure to state a claim. While she didn’t buy the plaintiffs’ argument they’re denied equal protection guarantees based on socioeconomic status, Palazuelos said they’d made a sufficient case on claims that their race has an effect on how they’re treated by state educators.

“Plaintiffs’ allegation that this action is brought on behalf of former and current California students at plaintiffs’ schools is sufficient to demonstrate that the class is limited to minorities at the three schools,” Palazeulos wrote.

Also, Palazuelos said there was enough information provided by plaintiffs that showed the state illegally spends taxpayer money on a system of public education that “engages in unconstitutional discrimination.”

Palazuelos also declined the state’s request to take notice of website printouts educators say prove policies are being implemented to address the plaintiffs’ concerns.

“Even if they are judicially noticeable, they do not necessarily show that such factors are being implemented,” Palazuelos wrote.

An email to the California Department of Education seeking comment was not answered by press time.

Palazuelos gave the state 20 days to answer the plaintiffs’ lawsuit.


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