California takes on harsh discipline and academic inequities for black, Latino students

As the national debate over childhood inequities sharpens, recent developments in California highlight struggles over practices critics say deprive some kids of quality class time and fuel a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

New state legislation on discipline and truancy—along with lawsuits—are at the heart of these controversies in the Golden State.

This month, for instance, a judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring that state education officials intervene immediately at a school where students have joined a class-action lawsuit originally filed in May; students at the school, Jefferson High in lower-income south Los Angeles, allege that they’ve been deprived of equal time for education in comparison to kids at other more affluent schools. More than 90 percent of students at Jefferson High are Latino, many the children of immigrants, and more than 8 percent of students are black.

The Oct. 8 order by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Hernandez, Jr., required state officials to immediately ensure Jefferson kids are not placed in classes this fall that they’ve already taken and passed or assigned periods dubbed “home” or “service” periods that are “devoid” of academic instruction. State officials say they’re complying with the order.

The class-action suit over “lost learning time” was filed in May on behalf of kids at nine California schools, including two in Alameda County, as the Center for Public Integrity reported. Kids at Jefferson in L.A. joined the suit in early October.

Students at various schools in the suit complained they were denied classes they needed to either graduate or apply to college, and suffered from poor instruction due to frequent teacher turnover and chaos in scheduling. The litigation was filed by Los Angeles-based Public Counsel, which has also represented students in expulsions, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and other law groups.

Policy makers and businesses in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in California also argue for more action to close an “achievement gap” and boost access to college prep classes for Latino and black students.

There’s more to this story. Click here to read the rest at the Center for Public Integrity.

This story is part of Juvenile Justice. Scrutinizing controversial policies affecting young people at risk. Click here to read more stories in this investigation.

Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.