ACLU and Rights Groups Suing CA Education Officials Launch Hotline for Parents, Teachers & Students

June 20, 2000 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES — Civil rights groups who filed the landmark California education lawsuit today announced a statewide toll-free hotline for parents, teachers, and students whose schools have failed to offer the bare minimum conditions for successful learning, ranging from a lack of textbooks, to untrained teachers, to filthy, run-down buildings.

A display advertisement announcing the hotline, 1-877-53-CAL-ED or 1-877-532-2533, will run in 25 newspapers throughout the state. The campaign is the first bilingual, statewide, urban and rural public education campaign seeking to elicit the truth from parents, teachers, and students about the state of their schools.

“When we filed this lawsuit and the parents, students, and teachers of California heard that someone was listening to their complaints, we were overwhelmed with calls,” said Peter Eliasberg, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “This hotline is a response to a real need to be heard. There’s a sense of frustration and pent-up anger about the condition of schools in less privileged communities in this state.”

Hector Villagra, staff attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said that until this lawsuit was filed, pleas for change from parents, students, and teachers had fallen on deaf ears.

“Families and teachers in all communities — including immigrant and economically struggling communities — understand the fundamental importance of educational opportunity to their future economic mobility and success,” said Villagra. “They’re tired of being ignored and this case and hotline are trying to address their needs.”

Estrellita Castille, an Inglewood resident and parent of one of the plaintiffs in the case, said that she brought her concerns to the school’s attention, but they were either minimized or ignored.

“This year, one of my son’s substitute teachers fell asleep in class and left the children unsupervised,” said Castille. “This is what’s passing for instruction in the State of California.”

“I expressed my concern in writing but never heard back, until I sent a letter by certified mail,” she added. “The school finally called back, but all they had to say was that they received my letter. We should not have to send our letters by certified mail. We should not have to join a lawsuit in order to be heard.”

“Today’s Lesson: Dreams Die Here,” the ad reads. “That’s what we’re telling our kids when we ask them to learn in schools that don’t work.” At the bottom of the ad in large type is the toll-free number. Readers are urged to call in and relate their stories of school system failure.

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