ACLU Denounces California's Blame-Shifting Strategy in Education Case

December 12, 2000 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES – Seven months after the American Civil Liberties Union sued California for failing to provide an equal and adequate education to thousands of children, the state today filed a lawsuit against the 18 school districts where the ACLU’s clients attend school.

“The state’s decision to sue the districts makes no sense,” said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “”The judge has already decided that ‘local districts are the state’s agents for local operation of the common school system, and the state’s ultimate responsibility cannot be delegated to any other public entity.’ So the state is really just suing itself.”

None of the 18 districts were named as defendants in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU.

The filing of the state’s cross-complaint comes on the heels of the state’s announcement that it will be deposing all of the 46 principals of the schools attended by the ACLU’s clients starting on December 21, 2000 through January 15, 2001.

“”Taken together,”” Rosenbaum said, “”the state’s actions illustrate the complete absence of any effective or even rational system of accountability over public education. The state has already admitted that it has no idea whether students throughout California have textbooks or not.””

“”It appears that the only means the state has to find out what’s going on at the local level is to wait for poor and minority children to bring a lawsuit,”” he added, “”and then to counter-sue the schools. You could not design a more dysfunctional, ‘pass the buck’ system of oversight and accountability if you tried.”

The State has hired O’Melveny & Myers, one of the largest law firms in the country, to represent them in their cross-complaint.

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