A California Superior Court judge recently ruled that plaintiffs from a single high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) would suffer irreparable harm if the State of California did not immediately meet with the LAUSD superintendent to devise a plan to address the school’s “shocking, unprecedented, and unacceptable” deprivations of educational opportunity. The ruling was made as part of the larger Cruz v. State of California class action lawsuit challenging the state’s denial of “basic educational equality” to primarily low-income, minority students attending schools that fail to provide them with adequate classroom instructional time.
In support of their motion for a temporary restraining order, the plaintiff-students from Jefferson Senior High School in South Los Angeles presented evidence that the school failed to assign scores of students to classes, sometimes for as long as six to eight weeks. As a result, these students were either warehoused in the school auditorium, left to roam the school hallways unsupervised, or sent home. Many of the students who were assigned to classes were assigned to courses they had already taken and passed or to “classes” with no content or instructional time. In addition to the lost instructional time for the unassigned or mis-assigned students, plaintiffs also presented evidence that even those students who were properly assigned to classes were detrimentally impacted by the school’s widespread and unabated scheduling failures. Specifically, the Superior court judge described evidence of “chaotic classrooms with constantly changing students,” teachers’ inability to progress in teaching course materials at an appropriate pace, and low student morale resulting from the school’s systematic and unredressed scheduling failures. According to the court, neither Jefferson High School nor the LAUSD presented evidence that they were “able and willing to take immediate and substantial steps to remedy this shocking loss of instructional time.”
To restore some semblance of order to the chaotic learning environment created at Jefferson High School, the court ordered the state, the state board of education, and the state superintendent of public instruction to step in and immediately meet with the LAUSD superintendent to devise a plan to remedy Jefferson High School’s scheduling failures. In particular, the court required the LAUSD and state defendants to devise a plan, among other things: immediately giving students the option to enroll in appropriate courses with substantive, instructional content; immediately establishing a program offering remedial instruction to students who were previously unassigned or mis-assigned; and that provided for all necessary teaching staff, teaching materials, classrooms, desks and any other resources needed to implement the plan by no later than November 3, 2014.