California Parents Sue State Over Literacy Problems in Schools

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A group of parents sued the state of California Tuesday, claiming the state has failed students when it comes to literacy and citing low test scores and a lack of a plan from educators and school officials.

According to the parents’ lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, California has not done enough or taken sufficient steps to improve literacy education and make sure it is available to all students.

The parents are represented by the pro bono firm Public Counsel.

Of the 200 largest school districts in the nation, 11 of the 26 lowest-performing districts are in California – including three in the bottom 10, the parents say. Stockton Unified School District in the state’s Central Valley is the third-lowest performing school district in the nation, they say.

“When it comes to literacy and basic education, California is bringing down the nation,” they say.

The parents’ children attend La Salle Avenue Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Van Buren Elementary School in Stockton and Inglewood Unified’s charter Children of Promise Preparatory Academy. The kids named in the lawsuit range in age from 6 to 14 and are all black or Latino, the lawsuit says.

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 the bottom 1 percent of students.

Dylan “has not been offered meaningful intervention at Van Buren at least since he was in second grade,” the parents say in the lawsuit. “Defendants have denied Dylan O. access to literacy, meaning they have denied Dylan O. his fundamental right to an education as provided for in the California Constitution.”

Five years ago, the state recognized a “critical need to address the literacy development of California children,” particularly for its many students who speak English as their second language, students with disabilities, low-income students and black and Hispanic students.

Defendants include the state Board of Education, state Department of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

The parents and their children seek an order requiring the state to provide appropriate literacy instruction in all grades, effective screening for literacy problems – especially for students in primary grades, timely and appropriate intervention when problems are found, and the establishment of a statewide system of accountability.

In addition to Mark Rosenbaum and Alisa Hartz of Public Counsel, the plaintiffs are also represented by Michael Jacobs and others at Morrison Foerster in San Francisco.


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