17 Mar Historic Student Case Bans Fake Classes
By Gervais Marsh
Students from six California public schools won a historic victory to eliminate so-called fake classes.
On Nov. 5, 2015, the California Department of Education voted in favor of students from John C. Fremont High School, Susan M. Dorsey High School and four other schools to settle the lawsuit Cruz v. State of California.
The lawsuit impelled legislators to create and pass Assembly Bill 1012 (AB 1012) that bans all California schools from placing students in service classes or “home” periods instead of academic classes needed to qualify for four-year colleges.
“I was in my junior year at Fremont High when I was assigned multiple home periods. They pushed me out of school, when it was common sense that I still had various classes to fulfill in order to graduate on time,” says Cristian Gaspar, now a first-year at California State University, Los Angeles.
Cristian said he and others would either leave school early or perform menial tasks, such as taking out the trash or photocopying teachers’ worksheets.
Students involved in the lawsuit noted that they were often assigned to re-take classes they had already passed, instead of receiving courses they needed to qualify to attend a four-year college.
The Cruz lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Southern California and Public Counsel along with a coalition of civil rights attorneys and private law firms. It highlights the systemic disinvestment from low-income, communities of color, where students receive less meaningful learning time than their peers in more affluent schools.
“Too often the demands and voices of students are ignored, and so it’s a powerful lesson that when students see injustices in their community, they have a right to demand more,” says Public Counsel attorney Kathryn Eidmann.
The victory also sheds light on lack of communication between the California Department of Education (CDE) and local school districts. CDE representatives stated they were unaware of the gross loss of learning time.
ACLU attorney Victor Leung indicated that quite often the CDE does the bare minimum when it comes to low-income students of color.
“We’ve been fighting with the California Department of Education about their responsibilities for decades,” he said.
There is a significant mental impact on students who are placed in “fake classes,” advocates say.
“Assigning students to content-less classes sends a message that their learning time and education are not valued,” Eidmann said.
Now that AB1012 has been passed, the CDE is mandated to implement it across the state and monitor schools to ensure they are in compliance.
“It all started with me stepping forward,” says Gaspar. “I wanted to be a voice for communities that have remained disinvested in for countless of years. The success of the lawsuit does not mean everything’s OK now, but rather stands for the hope in demolishing the school to prison pipeline.”