2011-02-09 / Front Page

McKinley parents file for injunction against CUSD

Claim signature verification process ‘burdensome’
By Cheryl Scott
Bulletin Staff Wrtier

Parents of McKinley Elementary School students filed an injunction against the Compton Unified School District on Feb. 3 seeking to stop the District from requiring in-person verification of their signatures on a petition demanding the school become a charter school.

The District had notified parents in a letter dated Jan. 21 that in order to verify their signatures on the petition they must go to the school with a photo ID during designated hours on Jan. 26 and 27. They would be required to speak with district employees and sign a different petition created by the district. Those who did not comply would have their signatures declared invalid, according to Parent Revolution, the organization spearheading the petition drive.

The parents are being represented pro bono by Kirkland and Ellis. They have filed for an injunction that would prevent the District from requiring the in-person verification and from requiring parents to provide official photo identification and from disallowing signatures of parents who do not appear in person.

The motion would also require the district to verify signatures on the petition by comparing the signatures and information on the petition with those already in the District’s posses- sion. The District would be ordered to contact only those parents whose signatures and information do not match up with those on file.

A hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 24, at which the District will be required to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be issued.

The parents also filed a lawsuit charging the District with violating their right of free speech by adopting an “onerous and burdensome” verification process. “The verification process is designed to prevent parents from exercising their rights under the Parent Trigger statute as well as curtail their rights to free speech,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also claims that “Compton Unified has consistently exhibited bad faith in their dealings with the plaintiffs by refusing to respond to e-mails, letters and phone calls by parents and failed to provide basic information about the verification procedure to parents until less than a week before they implemented a verification procedure.”

“They not only violated my constitutional rights but they also disrespected me,” said parent Oralia Vasquez. “My daughter has a right to a quality education and they failed to do their part. Now they want to keep me from getting her a quality education by creating a process that prevents all parents from expressing their opinion. That isn’t right and I’m going to stand against it.”

Parent Revolution Director Ben Austin said, “Compton Unified has not made a real attempt to validate the signatures of parents. When they realized that they did not have any valid ways stop the parents, they rigged the process to keep parents failing. They want parents to accept the status quo that is hurting Compton kids and they are willing to violate the Constitution to do that.”

The parents claim that the District has ignored their requests and their petition for more than six weeks and that District and school employees engaged in a “rescission” campaign to intimidate parents into removing their signatures from the petition.

The dispute over the verification process is the result of the failure of the Parent Trigger law to define acceptable procedures. The law is also silent on other pertinent issues such as whether the parents or the District has the right to name the charter school operator that would be chosen, and the elements of a “rigorous search” that must be conducted before selecting a charter operator.

A set of temporary regulations was adopted by the California Board of Education last year when the Parent Trigger law was passed. Permanent regulations are being considered by the new board but the approval process is expected to take several months at the earliest.

Until a permanent set of regulations clearly defines the manner in which the Parent Trigger law is to be implemented, it is unlikely that the parents’ demand to turn the school over to a charter operator will take place in September.

In fact, the implementation of the law may not be possible for a long time and the matter may have to be decided through litigation.

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