Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Lawsuit: California Students Shortchanged on Class Time

A class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday accuses the state of California of failing to provide adequate classroom instructional time to minority and low-income students.

The suit, Cruz v. State of California, was brought by students who attend seven economically disadvantaged schools in the state. Schools in Los Angeles and Compton are included in the lawsuit, as are Bay Area schools.

Attorneys and plaintiffs allege that days and even months of classroom instructional time is lost because of the poor condition of the schools that they attend.

In a press release, lead plaintiff Jessy Cruz, a senior at Fremont High School in Los Angeles, shared his frustrations. According to the release, at his school he has been assigned the wrong classes, seen high teacher turnover, lack of counseling and witnessed school violence.

“My classmates and I lose significant amounts of instructional time throughout each year, and we are falling miles behind. We don’t have the chance to learn what we need to. The state should be more focused on the real education that’s happening in the classroom,” Cruz said.

Reuters reported that at the school Cruz attends, Fremont High, only 14 percent of students tested as proficient in English and three percent proficient in math on the 2013 California Standards Test.

The lawsuit describes some of the situations that result in lost learning time for students. They include classes labeled as service periods or inside work experience, in which students do menial tasks such as making copies or just end up talking with each other.

The ACLU also describes situations in which course schedules are delayed, and students are placed in the wrong classes for weeks after the start of the school year. Additionally, teacher turnover and the resulting substitute teachers filling in can cost students instructional time. Classes may also be disrupted by violence and crime, sometimes punctuated by lockdowns that halt classroom instruction.

“Zip code determines educational opportunities in California,” ACLU attorney Mark Rosenbaum told Reuters. “The state won’t give these kids the time of day.”