Parents say AV education needs work
Special education and prejudice in AV schools
PALMDALE, Calif.—On Saturday night at Palmdale’s Brunswick Vista Lanes, parents from all over the Antelope Valley shared their horror stories of prejudice within the local school districts. Led by Palmdale resident and The Community Action League (TCAL) member, Cynthia Beverly, the parent group (called Only One Way Up) not only told their stories, but also proposed solutions.
Before the meeting began, audience members made their introductions and Bridget Cook, Antelope Valley Union High School District general counsel was in the midst of them all. Other attendees were not comfortable with her presence, however.
A few outspoken parents voiced their discomfort, prompting the attorney to leave the meeting. Cook was not surprised.
“From a professional standpoint knowing there were attorneys for parents in the room, I expected that reaction,” she said referring to Janeen Steel, executive director of the Learning Rights Law Center and Valerie Vanaman, with Newman Aaronson Vanaman special education advocates, who were also present in the room.
“From a personal standpoint, as a member of the community, I was disappointed by the reaction that my presence generated, because essentially for the same reasons Ms. Vanaman stood up and said what she said, people were in attack mode without being informed about why I was there … Neither of those (attorneys) live in this community, and that truly concerned me. They were there to generate money… We don’t see them participating and attending our events. That’s what personally bothered me.”
During introductions, Vanaman commented how Cook being in attendance presented a problem.
Cook further explained that the attorneys who offered their services to the disgruntled parents are essentially taking money out of the school district by filing lawsuits against the district and do not have the best interest of the community in mind.
Steel said her objective, as a representative of the non-profit law group, is to ensure students have equal access to the education system.
“I think we are just starting to understand what’s really going on over there,” she said. Steel and her staff have begun talking to AV parents about their issues which not only include special education, but also disciplinary actions, fees imposed on parents, and excessive suspensions.
Steel said it is important for parents and other local community members to be trained so they can advocate for their own children.
She is proposing to expand the organization’s TIGER Program, a self-advocacy program for community members.
In the meantime, Steel and her crew of attorneys are researching the issues within the local school districts.
Other solutions included taking matters to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and writing letters to the Senator.
“More parents are calling since the meeting,” Beverly said, explaining that at the next meeting, the parent group will begin taking action. “We are going to be getting statements from the parents, and taking (the issues) to the school board and Board of Supervisors.”
Beverly and several parents with the Antelope Valley have made complaints to several school districts about the treatment of their children. Beverly’s primary complaint has been that the Antelope Valley Union School District has not been properly educating her son, Antone Presley. She said the district has failed to ensure Presley’s individualized education program (IEP) is being followed at his school, Palmdale High.
Presley recently was released from juvenile hall for allegedly threatening a security guard at his school. However, the school decided not to press charges.
The next Only One Way Up meeting is scheduled to take place Dec. 4; the location has yet to be announced. For more information, contact Cynthia Beverly at (661) 213-8249.
The Antelope Valley has been battered by negative press regarding complaints of discrimination and abuse of power on part of authorities in Section 8 housing. A lawsuit was filed by a local organization, The Community Action League (TCAL) in conjunction with the local chapter of the NAACP brought the concerns to light.
Since the issue was made public, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors decided to suspend funding for Section 8 investigators for both Palmdale and Lancaster until a thorough investigation was completed.
The Lancaster City Council is expected to vote on Dec. 11 on whether to appoint Cassandra D. Harvey to the council to replace Ron Smith, who was elected to the California State Assembly.
If approved, Harvey would be sworn in and take the seat that day and finish out the remainder of Smith’s term until April 2014.
She would also be the first African American woman to sit on the city’s governing body.
Harvey was nominated by Mayor R. Rex Parris.
In accordance with a settlement worked out between the city of Lancaster, The Community Action League (TCAL) and the NAACP regarding Section 8 Housing, community activists held an informal gathering Tuesday to begin discussing how to implement an agreement that will enable all parties to work together to deal with problems within the program.
Called the Community Working Group, the purpose of the organization is to identify issues of concern to residents, and then to begin to develop proposals and initiatives to work on these concerns.
PALMDALE—An agreement reached in a discrimination lawsuit between city officials and representatives of Antelope Valley residents who are part of the Section 8 Choice Voucher program is now in the hands of the federal judge overseeing the suit.
The agreement was reached last week, a week after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a similar agreement.
The judge will now have an opportunity to vet the settlements, and when approved, they will go into effect immediately.
African Americans are the third largest ethnic group in the city of Lancaster. At 19.2 percent of the population (29,263 people), they trail Whites (56.5 percent) and Hispanics (36.5 percent).
Like Black communities around the nation, Lancaster residents experience highs that they applaud and challenges they feel need addressing. As the April 10 elections draw closer, some key community leaders spoke out about what they want from the candidates.