LOS ANGELES - Nine parents of Los Angeles Unified children have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging that the district's plans for distance learning are inadequate and violate students' rights to a basic public education under the state constitution.
The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint, announced during a news conference at the County Courthouse, also alleges that minority students,
particularly Blacks and Latinos, are disproportionately impacted.
The LAUSD released a statement regarding the suit.
"Los Angeles Unified has not been served with a lawsuit,'' the statement read. "However, many of the challenges society faces present themselves in schools, including the impact of COVID-19. School districts like Los Angeles Unified have to balance the sometimes-conflicting priorities of the learning needs of students and the health and safety of all in the school community.''
Leilani Heard is 7-years-old. Her younger sister is in kindergarten. Their older brothers are in high school. And their parents Ronnie and Shanita Heard are frustrated with LAUSD’s distance learning plan. They are among 9 families who filed a class action suit hoping to get the school district to change its way.
“Our biggest issue is communication. We were unaware of a lot of the things that were supposed to happen from LAUSD and then when they made us aware of certain things we were supposed to have they did not have it available for us," Shanita said.
“She needs more from these teachers. She needs more from the faculty,” Ronnie said speaking about Leilani.
Attorney Sierra Elizabeth with the firm Kirkland & Ellis says this case is being handled for free by her firm. She says what they want is a return to the kind of LAUSD workflows that existed before the pandemic which they believe could work at home.
“So, for example teachers were working eight hour work days. Now they’re only working 6 hour work days. Teachers are getting a maximum of one hour of professional development… before they were getting up to 4.5 hours of professional development,” Elizabeth stated.
She says things like student assessments have gone away. The families want immediate relief.
“Well, we actually filed a preliminary injunction today so that we could get immediate relief and have LAUSD stop with this current distance learning plan and implement the strategies we’re advancing.” Elizabeth says the actual case may take a long time.
Akela Wroten, Jr.says his daughter’s learning is going backwards. He adds, “I’m tired of having little support from the district in distance learning.
As for the pandemic, Wroten says, “Nobody expected this to happen. My life has been flipped upside down. Everybody’s life has been flipped upside down. Just like the government we had time to figure this out. There should have been some type of beta testing. there should have been some kind of assessment.” He feels there should have been parent input on how the District can better remotely teach their kids.
Since school closed in March, Los Angeles Unified has been "working
to bridge the digital divide ensuring all students have devices and access to
the Internet,'' the statement went on.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Hollywood High Special Education teacher Shirley Woods conducts class remotely on September 08, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
But according to the suit, during the spring semester LAUSD engaged only 36% of students in daily online learning and the district's engagement of Black students, Latino students, English-language learners and pupils with
disabilities was notably worse.
The suit alleges that LAUSD's plan for the fall semester continues much of the harm from the spring by providing students with nearly 60% less live learning time and access to their teachers. LAUSD is allowing for the least amount of learning time with teachers out of the state's five largest districts, some of which are providing more than twice as much learning time with their teachers and classmates than the LAUSD, the suit says.
You can get more information on the effort at WorthMoreLA.org.