LOS ANGELES - Local parents, teachers and civil rights groups filed court motions today seeking to stop an effort to halt integration programs within the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Parents, teachers and the Coalition for Educational Justice, along with the ACLU of Southern California, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Public Counsel, and the law firm Hadsell & Stormer filed motions today to maintain integration programs in L.A. public schools and to become part of two lawsuits, both entitled American Civil Rights Foundation v. Los Angeles Unified School District.
"Programs that provide academic excellence and diverse faculty to a student body representative of the cities in which we live are imperative in the fight to integrate our public schools and provide quality education to everyone," said Catherine Lhamon, Racial Justice Director for the ACLU/SC. "This community has not yet reached the mountaintop about which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed, and we cannot turn our backs now on programs designed to reduce the harm of racial segregation."
The motions, which were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court with Judges Helen Bendix and Paul Gutman, seek to intervene in two lawsuits filed in October 2005 by the Pacific Legal Foundation. One suit challenges the use of race in student admission to magnet schools and in a voluntary busing program. The other suit challenges the use of race when assigning teachers to district schools after being hired.
Carlos Jimenez, a history teacher at Bravo Medical Magnet in Boyle Heights who's been with the district 31 years, said he's witnessed the benefits that students at diverse schools receive. That experience compelled him to be part of the lawsuit.
"Bravo is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse campuses that I have seen in LAUSD and it is also one of the highest performing schools in the district," Jimenez said. "My students interact every day with students and teachers who are from everywhere, they speak dozens of languages in the halls, they come from different parts of the city, they look different and they have different viewpoints to offer. At Bravo just walking to class is educational."
Attorneys intervening on behalf of a coalition of parents and teachers argue that their clients do not want to return to the days of segregated schools. Further, the school district is obligated by a 1981 court order in which the district agreed to a voluntary desegregation plan that created the magnet school program, which attracts diverse student populations to specific schools and can serve as a model of academic excellence for the rest of the district.
"More than fifty years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, school districts throughout our nation are still struggling to fulfill its promise," said Erica Teasley-Linnick, LDF assistant counsel. "LAUSD has made great strides, achieving success in areas
recognized by both parents and teachers. We should be praising their efforts, not dismantling them."
Dorothea Logan and Darryl Anderson have three children enrolled in magnet school programs. Anderson said attending almost entirely black public schools did not prepare him for the working world and after careful research he selected schools with diverse student bodies and faculty for his children.
"The education our children have received has given them the confidence and comfort to interact and befriend all types of people and successfully pursue higher education," Anderson said. "Without the consideration of race in the magnet school selection process, there is a good chance our schools would be immediately segregated - even more than they are now."