LOS ANGELES -- A California Supreme Court has granted the motion for class certification in the Williams vs. California suit. The decision allows thousands of California public school students to be represented as a whole in a suit against the state of California.
Williams vs. California, the historic class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other civil rights organizations and private law firms, was filed on behalf of all California public school students who lack essentials required for an opportunity to learn. The lawsuit charges the state with having reneged on its constitutional obligation to provide students with the bare essentials necessary for education. The suit also charges California with having violated state and federal requirements that equal access to public education be provided without regard to race, color, or national origin.
"This is a victory for public school students throughout the state," said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director for the ACLU/SC. "Now that the court has seen it fit to grant class certification we can work on setting up a system to identify and correct deficiencies in the California public schools and to end the statewide system of have and have-not schools. The court's decision confirms that this is a case of statewide dimensions requiring statewide solutions."
The issue of class certification was one of the central battles in the Williams case. The order to grant class certification represents a major setback for the state of California. It is unclear exactly how many students the order will affect because the state does not have a system in place to monitor and correct problems involving the public schools. The state of California has also filed a counter suit against it's own school districts, demanding that they be held responsible for fixing problems in their own schools.
"Another school year has begun," stated Rosenbaum, "and the state of California still has no idea which students lack textbooks, qualified teachers and even classroom seats. As the state demands accountability from students, parents and teachers, it must be accountable too for failing to provide all children with the bare necessities of equal education."
By law the state of California is obligated to provide its students with at least the bare essentials necessary for the education of all students. Many of the plaintiffs in the Williams case cited a lack of textbooks, no access to a library, chronically unfilled teacher vacancies, lack of sanitary toilet facilities and vermin infestations among other conditions that were common at their respective schools.
The suit is brought by the ACLU affiliates of California, Morrison & Foerster LLP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Public Advocates, Inc., Center for Law in the Public Interest, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Professors Karl Manheim and Alan Ides, Peter Edelman of the Georgetown University Law Center, and Robert Myers of Newman. Aronson. Vanaman.