Accusing the Los Angeles Unified School District of destabilizing their school, parents, students, teachers and community stakeholders at Crenshaw High have joined a national coalition of activists from 18 cities across the nation to take their case to the United States Department of Education and Congress.
As part of a campaign called Journey for Justice 2, some 250 individuals, including representatives from Crenshaw, met with elected officials and attended a hearing by the United States Department of Education on the impact of school closures, turnarounds, phase-outs and co-locations.
Additionally, some school groups in the national coalition have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against school districts around the nation under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The federal government has agreed to investigate six of the complaints–Chicago, Detroit, New York, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Crenshaw activists are exploring the possibility of filing a federal complaint s well.
This section of the act reads that “No person in the United States, shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
At a press conference Monday held at Crenshaw High, speakers accused the LAUSD of imposing heavy-handed, top-down transformations or reconstitutions on schools that were predominantly populated by students of color.
The national complaint alleges that reconstitutions and conversions target and disproportionately negatively impact African American students and communities as well as other students of color.
The move to a national arena follows a vote on Jan. 15 by the Los Angeles school board to transform Crenshaw from a traditional high school into three magnet schools effective with the start of the 2013-14 academic year. In the process, all faculty and staff will have to reapply for their jobs and students will have to apply for enrollment.
The district has promised that all students currently enrolled at the campus will be able to attend when the new school year begins in September.
But the Crenshaw Cougar Coalition claims the process continues to be mired in confusion. According to their literature, some students and families are not aware of the extra application that must submitted to attend the magnet.
The coalition also claims that magnet “connotes an entry test and the need for proficient academic abilities,” which they believe may intimidate the most vulnerable pupils.
Locally, parents and activists want the district to live up to what they saw as a promise in a Jan. 16 letter sent out not to reconstitute the staff at the high school and to live up to its promise to work collaboratively with stakeholders on any and all plans.
They also want the district to follow through on promises to give money to build on current efforts to provide students with social services as well as more college counseling, positive behavior support programs and parent engagement resources.
Finally, the Crenshaw Cougar Coalition wants to ensure access, retention and equity at the proposed new magnet schools for all students currently at Crenshaw and in the community.
The Crenshaw coalition also seeks to stop the reconstitutions, make sure that the conversion to magnets does not lead to exclusion of students in the community surrounding the high school and cause a corresponding increase in dropout rates. It is also asking that the federal government intervene at Manual Arts High School to reverse the negative impact. Manual underwent a magnet conversion last school year. The complaint also asks that the federal government analyze the impacts of the charter turn-over of Henry Clay Middle School and other converted/reconstituted schools such as Fremont and Westchester high schools as it relates to equity and access for students and intervene as appropriate at those schools and at any other schools that have been reconstructed in a negative, destabilizing way.
In addition, as part of the national action, activists have put together a plan they want the federal government to utilize called Sustainable Success Model for School Improvement.
While Crenshaw activists take their fight to the nation’s capital, the school district is planning a series of meetings to solicit community input, called “Coffee with the Principal.” The next one will take place Saturday, Feb. 2, from 10-11:30 a.m. at the school.
Among the topics that will be discussed are themes for the magnets, the curriculum for each as well, what traits will be sought in the staff that will serve the students.