Today the ACLU of Southern California and the law firm of Newman. Aaronson. Vanaman, in conjunction with State Administrator of the Compton Unified School District (CUSD) Dr. Randolph Ward, announced a permanent settlement implementing a comprehensive consent decree to ensure that the 29,000 students enrolled in the CUSD are no longer denied the habitable school facilities and fundamental learning tools and opportunities guaranteed them by the California Constitution. This historic settlement is the first to require by court order that the state of California provide students within a particular school district equal educational opportunity to other California students in grades K-12. It is the result of a lawsuit (Serna v. Eastin) filed against the State of California in Los Angeles Superior Court in July of 1997 by the ACLU-SC and Newman. Aaronson.Vanaman on behalf of all students within the Compton Unified School District.
Serna v. Eastin charged the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and other state education officials with failing to provide students an equal and adequate education and a safe learning environment following the state's takeover of the district in 1993. The suit was the first of its kind ever to be filed in California. Students in the CUSD had been denied the most basic educational tools available to public school students elsewhere in California, such as textbooks, certified teachers, and classroom homework policies. In addition, students were deprived of even minimally acceptable learning conditions as a consequence of unusable restrooms, boarded-up windows, broken lights and exposed electrical wiring.
The permanent settlement establishes a comprehensive system for addressing the educational and safety needs of Compton students.
Some of the terms of the settlement include:
-The provision of appropriate in-class and take-home textbooks in all core subjects to all students in the CUSD
-The presence of a certified teacher in every classroom on every school day
-The development of a plan to reduce district-wide employee absenteeism
-The implementation of a homework policy at every school site
-Assuring healthful and safe schools district-wide
-Regular community meetings to elicit parent feedback
-The neutral monitoring of the conditions in school facilities by an independent party, with clear evaluation standards for progress as to educational equity and facilities improvements
Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, praised the court-approved settlement as "adding the essential fourth R to the 3 R's of education - 'Responsibility.' For the first time in decades, the Compton school system receives passing marks when it comes to affording equal educational opportunity to its students." Rosenbaum credited the successful negotiation to the commitment of State Administrator Ward and State Superintendent Eastin and her staff.
Dr. Randolph Ward, state administrator of the CUSD, added that, "There are too many low performing, persistently failing school districts in this country. Six years ago, Compton used to be one of them. Today, you will find a different picture here. The court approved settlement has provided us with a useful tool in making needed changes to facilitate student success in the classroom. It took a lot of hard work for the Compton Unified School District to have reached this point in its recovery and there is still a lot of hard work ahead."