Report From Palm Lane – Court Battle Over Parent Trigger Begins

The Palm Lane Elementary School parents and their attorneys squared off against the Anaheim City School District and Anaheim City Board of Education on June 15th in Courtroom C11 in the battle to determine whether the parents will succeed in their efforts to restart the academically troubled school as an independent charter school. The parents are attempting to invoke the Parent Trigger Law, enacted in 2010, which allows parents to transform their own schools if 50% of parents sign a petition to seek a change at their chronically underperforming school.

After repeated unsuccessful attempts to get the district to respond to their petition, the parents sued the district, asking the Court to order ACSD to grant their petition or show good cause for its denial.

The initial court proceedings concerned the district’s rejection of the parent’s petition. Mandated by law to verify the authenticity of the parent signatures, based on the initial testimony, ACSD apparently hired an inexperienced young woman to do the job and failed to train or supervise her. In his questioning, lead counsel Mark Holscher, partner in Los Angeles-based Kirk and Ellis, built a strong argument that the woman assigned by the district to verify the signatures did not understand the importance of the job she had been assigned, or what was at stake for the youngsters.

68% of the parents signed the “restart” petition, far more than the 50% required by the Parent Empowerment Law. It appeared evident from the testimony that the district had disqualified a significant number of valid signatures, enough to justify a denial of the parents’ petition. Equally apparent was the school district’s bad faith. Their failure to train the woman assigned to verify the signatures guaranteed the negative outcome.

After two days of initial witness testimony, the proceedings have been put on hold for two weeks. They will resume June 30th. We will follow the case in our updates.

Kirkland and Ellis should be commended for the number of attorneys they have assigned to the pro- bono legal team. Their dedication to a better future for the Palm Lane students and their parents speaks volumes. It was heartening to watch them in action.

The teachers’ union is well aware of the importance of the Palm Lane lawsuit. A win for the parents represents a serious threat to the union’s hegemon in public education. The lawsuit is being vigorously defended as befits the high stakes at risk.

Stay tuned.

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