The situation at Jefferson High School was an emergency.
In fact the loss of learning time students at the South Los Angeles high school encountered was so severe that a judge in the Superior Court in Alameda County issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) directing officials from the state of California Department of Education to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to determine what happened and how many students were impacted. He also required submission of a plan to remedy the problem.
That action followed a protest staged Aug. 25 by more than 100 students at the campus who were forced to sit in the auditorium for multiple periods waiting to be scheduled into class, said David Sapp, director of education and advocacy at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California.
Unfortunately, said SAPP, what happened to students at Jefferson was not a one-time aberration. Nor was it something that was simply a problem at this one school.
According to a lawsuit filed in May by the ACLU, Public Counsel and a number of other law firms, students at at least eight other schools around the state face the same loss of learning time because of scheduling snafus and other problems.
According to Sapp, locally, in addition to Jefferson, pupils at Dorsey and Fremont high schools as well as Joyner Elementary in LAUSD faced the same problem as did youngsters at Compton High School and Whaley Middle School in the Compton Unified.
In Northern California, youth at Fremont and Castlemont high schools in the Oakland Unified School District as well as those at Nystrom Elementary of West Contra Costa Unified suffer in the same manner.
The problem, alleges Sapp, is one that is not uncommon at schools that predominantly serve low-income and youth of color.
However, because the need was so dire at Jefferson, the legal teams filed for a TRO, and Judge George Hernandez granted it on Oct. 6.
The judge wrote: “Those plaintiffs who are students at Jefferson Senior High School in South Los Angeles have presented evidence that they and other students (including those who submitted declarations in support of plaintiffs’ application for TRO) have suffered and continue to suffer severe and pervasive educational deprivations, in the form of lost hours of instructional time, compared to other students in LAUSD and the state of California. This deprivation is the direct result of Jefferson’s failure to provide the students with appropriate course schedules on Aug. 12, the first day of the 2014-2015 school year, and Jefferson’s failure, over the last eight weeks, to promptly remedy the problem. These widespread scheduling failures were due in part to Jefferson’s (and/or LAUSD’s) inability to implement new scheduling software. Hundreds of students were sent to the auditorium to wait for course assignments for periods in which no class was assigned. Those students who did receive schedules were assigned to inappropriate courses (e.g., courses already taken with a passing grade). Many were told, sometimes for weeks, to wait—until students with “no classes at all” received assistance.
Sapp said Hernandez refuted the state’s contention that scheduling was a local issue and reiterated that the state is obligated to make sure there is a system in place and to step in, if that system is not working.
As a result of Hernandez’s order, the state sent a team to Jefferson, and during a review on Friday and Monday, the district found 48 Jefferson High students enrolled in two or more periods of home or “service” courses. They also identified 204 juniors and seniors who were retaking a course they had already passed, but noted many of them were re-taking courses such as computers, design, physical education or band that were designed to be taken multiple times.
To break this data down a bit more, according to the district, out of the 118 seniors repeating courses, 10 were discovered retaking a UC/CSU eligible course that they passed with a C or better. And out of the 86 juniors repeating courses, 10 juniors were discovered retaking a UC/CSU eligible course that they passed with a C or better.
Additionally, and most importantly Sapp said the judge ordered the state and school district to come up with remediation and interventions that could help students like one Jefferson high junior who last year needed a trigonometry course but did not get assigned to the class until 10 weeks into the semester. Despite his best efforts, Sapp said the young man failed the course. But was not assigned trigonometry until eight weeks into his senior year.
Sapp said Hernandez ordered a written report submitted to him by today.
The district’s staff Tuesday presented a report to the board that included a number of remedies: It proposed that the school day at Jefferson High School be extended for 30 minutes for 124 days to help affected students make up for lost learning time. The proposed resolution also calls for the addition of classes and funding for support services, such as student transportation.
Other options in the plan included having a committee begin to meet to discuss potential changes to class matrix and bell schedule for second semester; a complete inventory of the campus to ensure adequate seats and desks was completed; any new staff needed will start on Monday, Oct. 20; all necessary instructional materials will be provided; additional support for the school’s administrative team will be provided; lowering class sizes; continued parental engagement support; ensure vacancies are filled; and there will be no supervision by counselors, which will better enable them to complete student class scheduling.
In terms of the other schools facing similar challenges, Sapp said, the legal teams are exploring seeking a preliminary injunction that would address a broader range of schools.
Further, at the Tuesday board meeting the LAUSD staff informed officials that an audit of all secondary schools will be conducted to determine just how many students have been assigned service and home periods.