The ACLU of Southern California today filed a federal lawsuit (Beauchamp vs Los Angeles County MTA) against the Metropolitan Transit Authority and a bus company, Ryder/ATE, Inc., on behalf of five disabled bus riders in Los Angeles County charging that these transportation agencies do not adequately serve disabled riders. The lawsuit charges that the MTA and Ryder/ATE are violating the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1974 Rehabilitation Act by discriminating against riders with mobility impairments.

Ryder/ATE operates several bus lines for the MTA in the Long Beach and Artesia areas of Los Angeles County. Plaintiffs are asking for a declaration that both Ryder/ATE and the MTA have violated federal law. They are also asking for an injunction requiring defendants to give equal access to disabled passengers and to eliminate any discrimination against persons with disabilities who use their buses.

The five plaintiffs are disabled passengers who use wheelchairs or other assistive devices. Although they have repeatedly complained about defendants' failure to accommodate people with disabilities, none of the alleged conditions have been improved. According to the lawsuit, Ryder/ATE, Inc. and the MTA have refused to accommodate disabled bus riders, subjecting them to hazardous conditions that have resulted in physical injuries, humiliation, emotional distress, and monetary loss. Specifically, Ryder/ATE, Inc. and the MTA have failed to repair and maintain the equipment which allows passengers using wheel chairs to board and exit buses. The doors used by disabled passengers are frequently malfunctioning or broken. The clamps used to secure wheelchairs of disabled riders are frequently missing, broken or malfunctioning.

The ACLU is also charging that Ryder/ATE, Inc. and MTA bus drivers are not adequately trained to serve disabled passengers or to operate the equipment which the disabled need to use the buses. Plaintiffs allege that bus drivers often fail or refuse to pick them up at bus stops and that the bus stops are poorly maintained, making it very difficult for disabled riders to board and leave the buses safely.

The federal lawsuit claims that these transportation agencies are violating the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1974 Rehabilitation Act. The ADA was enacted to dismantle all forms of discrimination which prevent disabled individuals from obtaining opportunities, participation, independence and economic self-sufficiency. Further, because Ryder/ATE, Inc. and the MTA receive federal funds, they are subject to the 1990 Rehabilitation Act which demands full inclusion for individuals with disabilities by those agencies receiving federal funds.

Ryder/ATE, Inc., a Delaware corporation, operates at least seven bus lines for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, including bus lines regularly used by plaintiffs. The MTA was created by the California State Legislature to administer, plan, and provide transportation services for Los Angeles County.

Date

Friday, January 16, 1998 (All day)

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today announced a partial victory in Bacus vs Palo Verde Unified School District [EDCV 981 RT (VAPx)], a federal lawsuit filed January 6 on behalf of three teachers with the Palo Verde Unified School District in Blythe, California.

The teachers are seeking injunctive and declarative relief to stop the district from violating the Establishment Clause of the United States constitution, which forbids government agencies from endorsing any religion.

On January 9, the chair of the Margaret White School Site Council sent the ACLU of Southern California a letter stating that the site council had voluntarily agreed to "cease and desist from including an opening prayer at our site council meetings." The school board is expected to decide this week whether it will voluntarily stop including prayers at school board meetings.

If school officials refuse to discontinue these prayers voluntarily, the ACLU will ask the court to declare the use of sectarian prayers by PVUSD officials a violation of the First Amendment and to enjoin the school district and its officials from sponsoring, facilitating, or engaging in prayer at official meetings.

"By opening its meetings with sectarian prayers, Palo Verde School District officials are endorsing one religion over all others," said ACLU Slaff Fellow Peter Eliasberg. "This action violates our nation's most cherished freedoms."

Plaintiffs' complaint, filed January 6, asked the court to stop PVUSD officials from sponsoring explicitly sectarian prayers at official district meetings. The PVUSD Board of Education holds meetings at least once each month. These meetings give parents, students and other citizens the chance to express their views on school district policies.

The lawsuit was filed after repeated attempts by the teachers, who are not Christian, to stop the district from opening school board and other district meetings with Christian prayers. Despite plaintiffs' requests, PVUSD officials continued to open meetings with prayers ending with the words, "in Jesus name we pray,"

In addition to the regular school board meetings, Christian prayers had also been included at the site council meetings. These site councils, required under the California Education Code, develop school plans for issues such as curriculum, staff development, and use of certain state education funds. The January 9 letter indicates this practice will cease.

Said ACLU attorney Dan Tokaji, "We are pleased that some of the defendants in this lawsuit have acted so promptly to cease this blatant endorsement of religion. We hope that all other defendants will follow their lead and agree to abide by the constitution of the United States of America. If they do not, we will seek a court order upholding the principle that church and state must be kept separate." If defendants do not voluntarily agree to cease prayers at school board meetings, plaintiffs expect to schedule a preliminary injunction hearing for February 23 before Judge Robert Timlin at the U.S. District Court in Riverside.

Date

Monday, January 12, 1998 (All day)

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Education Equity

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ACLU of Southern California

The ACLU of Southern California argues Curran vs Mt. Diablo Council of the Boy Scouts of America before the California Supreme Court, in Los Angeles on Monday, Jan. 5. The case concerns the 1980 exclusion of former Eagle Scout, Timothy Curran, as an adult member of Scouting by the Mt. Diablo Boy Scout Council in Berkeley, California after a local newspaper story on gay teens indicated that Curran, then 18, was gay. The case challenges the Boy Scout policy of blocking participation in Scouting by those who are gay, a policy that the ACLU says violates California's Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination by business establishments.
The case is being argued by ACLU/SC cooperating attorney Jon Davidson, currently Supervising Attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who argued the case through the lower courts while a staff attorney with the ACLU/SC. Plaintiff Timothy Curran, who will attend the argument is currently a 35yearold documentary director living in Miami, Florida.
After years of discovery and pretrial motions, the first phase of the trial began on September 20, 1990 and concerned whether the Boy Scouts are a business establishment as defined by the Unruh Civil Rights Act. On November 6, 1990, the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that Scouting is a business, but, on July 25, 1991, the same Court said the Boy Scouts may discriminate against those it learns are gay. On March 29, 1994, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Boy Scouts is not a business and may discriminate to further the organization's rights of intimate and expressive association.
Attorney Jon Davidson said that the 1994 California Court of Appeal ruling gave ". . .the Boy Scouts, and numerous other charitable organizations, an exemption from California's antidiscrimination laws and the unfettered ability to exclude whomever they want, on any basis."
However, in Randall vs Boy Scouts of America, Orange County Council, a case concerning the expulsion of two boy scouts who refused to affirm the existence of "God" in taking the Scout oath, the Orange County Superior Court ruled on May 7, 1992 that the Boy Scouts are a business establishment and could not exclude the boys due to the antidiscrimination protections of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a decision affirmed by a different district of the Court of Appeal on February 28, 1994.
Referring to the conflict between the rulings Davidson said, "I cannot believe that the court would have reached the result it did in Tim's case if he had been excluded by the Boy Scouts because of his race or religious beliefs."
The ACLU of Southern California won two significant rulings from the California Supreme Court in recent years based on the enforcement of the state's Unruh Civil Rights Act. In Warfield vs Peninsula Golf and Country Club, also argued by Davidson, a female real estate agent won a landmark ruling by the California Supreme Court on June 29, 1995 in a discrimination case against a private golf club.
In that 14 year old legal battle, the Peninsula Golf and Country Club refused to honor the family membership of a real estate agent which she won as part of a divorce settlement based on the club's policy that membership could only be held in a man's name. The ACLU of Southern California successfully argued that as a business, whether private or not, clubs cannot discriminate against an entire class of people based solely on their status.
On April 9, 1996, the California Supreme Court ruled in Smith vs Fair Employment and Housing Commission that a landlord could not refuse to rent to an unmarried couple on the basis of religious belief. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief in this case.
The ACLU believes that both of these rulings indicate that the California Supreme Court will not support discrimination in violation of California's laws.

Date

Monday, January 5, 1998 (All day)

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LGBTQ Equality

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