Just before the Oakland school board agreed to lease Santa Fe Elementary School to Emery Unified for $500,000 a year (for three years), the law firm Siegel & Yee filed a lawsuit to keep it open.
The plaintiffs plan to ask the Alameda County Superior Court for an injunction. If it goes through, this will be the second of the five planned closures that have not gone according to plan (See: Lazear Elementary. Its charter conversion hearing is scheduled for April 25).
Here’s the news release from Michael Siegel:
OAKLAND STUDENTS AND PARENTS FILE SUIT TO STOP SCHOOL CLOSURE
Decision to Close Santa Fe Elementary School is Racially Discriminatory, a Waste a Public Resources, and in Violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, Plaintiffs Say
Oakland, CA. On Wednesday, four parents and six students from Santa Fe Elementary School served the Oakland Unified School District with a lawsuit to prevent the closure of their historic neighborhood school. In a verified complaint filed with the Alameda County Superior Court, the Santa Fe plaintiffs allege that the school closure policy implemented by the Oakland School Board violates the equal protection guarantees of the California Constitution. The plaintiffs also allege that the Santa Fe closure wastes public resources and violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
“The School Board’s decision to close Santa Fe violates my rights as a parent, and my kids’ rights as students,” says Thearse Pecot, the lead plaintiff and a guardian of three Santa Fe students. “They are now trying to close the fifth school in my neighborhood – and all five of these schools have served mainly African-American children. This is racial discrimination, plain and simple,” Pecot says.
Plaintiff Ural C. Dixon describes how the school closure policy will impact his son, who receives full-day special education services. “The District is saying they will bus my son from North Oakland to 81st Avenue in East Oakland – a trip, including stops, that will probably take 90 minutes each way. How is a young person supposed to get an education, when he spends three hours each day on a bus?”
In their suit, the plaintiffs make four claims regarding the closure of Santa Fe: (1) the closure violates the rights of North Oakland African-American students to an equitable education; (2) parents’ rights are also violated, because they will not be able to access the newly-assigned schools; (3) the School Board is wasting public funds by closing the school, given hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent investments at the Santa Fe campus; and (4) CEQA has been violated, because the School Board failed to consider the cumulative environmental impact of five North Oakland school closures over the last eight years.
The plaintiffs intend to request an expedited hearing on their claims, and will ask the Superior Court to issue an injunction preventing the closure of Santa Fe.