The California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement with the State of California that will establish a comprehensive monitoring and enforcement system to ensure school districts do not unlawfully charge fees to public school students for educational activities.
In September, the ACLU affiliates filed a class action lawsuit against the state for allowing school districts throughout California to charge fees for books and other essential educational materials.
The settlement, which requires court approval, is contigent on enactment of legislation that would empower students and parents to use an existing complaint process to identify and recieve reimbursement for illegal school fees.
Under such legislation, if auditors find a district charged illegal fees, the district would be required to fully reimburse parents or suffer a financial penalty. Furthermore, parents would be able to challenge illegal fees immediately through a complaint process that provides for resolutiion within 30 working days.
Assembly member Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate) has endorsed the settlement, so legislative action should move forward.
The lawsuit resulted from an investigation by the ACLU of Southern California , which uncovered a widespread practice among school districts of compelling students to purchase textbooks, workbooks, and assigned novels. Districts also charged students to take Advanced Placement examinations, even though completing these tests is a course requirement and affects students’ grades.
In 2004, the Schwarzenegger administration settled a similar lawsuit, Williams v. California, which charged that the state had failed to fulfill its constitutional mandate to guaranteee the bare minimum infrastructure--up to date textbooks, safe buildings, qualified teachers--for a quality public education.
The settlement in the Williams litigation provided up to a billion dollars for school districts to purchase educational materials, to identify and fix deteriorating schools, and to ensure that all schools hired qualified teachers. The state also agreed to standards for teachers, access to textbooks, sanitary and safe campuses, and a parent-supported system to hold school districts accountable to those standards.
Under the settlement reached in the school fees litigation, parents and students will be able to use the existing process estabished to report violations of the Williams settlement to report illegal fees imposed on public school students for educational materials and activities.
State Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno expressed concern that fundamental rights can be changed by a simple majority vote through California's initiative process. Moreno was part of the four justice majority that in May 2008 struck down California laws banning same-sex marriages. Six months later, 52% of voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. Moreno was the sole dissenter when the court upheld Proposition 8 in May 2009. In his dissent, he wrote that the court's decision "places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities."
In a recent interview, he commented that voters can be misinformed by initiative campaigns, and that the initiative process, unlike the deliberative legislative process, does not benefit from review by fact-finding committees.
Within days, Chief Justice Ronald George, in a speech at Stanford Law School, was highly critical of California's initiative process. He suggested reforms, such as prohibiting changes to the constitution through initiatives.
The initiative process has been significant in shaping and misshaping civil liberties in California. It began as a progressive tool in 1911 to ensure that legislators controlled by the railroads and big business would not block laws benefitting the majority of Californians. The first initiatives granted women the right to vote, established a limit on working hours for women and children, and set a minimum wage.
But inititatives have been used more often to deny rights. In 1920, voters approved three to one the "Alien Land Law" initiative, prohibiting Japanese immigrants from leasing land. Proposition 14 passed by a margin of two to one in 1964. That initiative amended the state constitution to rescind existing fair housing laws and prohibited the legislature from passing future laws to prevent racial discrimination in housing. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court struck down the proposition as a violation of the federal constitution. In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187, which required state programs, including public schools and public health services, to deny aid to undocumented immigrants. A court injunction prevented the law from going into effect. And in 1996, the passage of Proposition 209 outlawed affirmative action in state programs.
Watch an appearance by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi on KPIX's "Bay Sunday" program with host Sydnie Kohara.
On April 15, 2013, Sal Castro, a teacher and counselor in Los Angeles schools for more than 35 years, died at his home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
In March 1968, Castro was a 34-year-old social studies teacher at Lincoln High School in East Los Angeles. He helped organize Chicano students who were frustrated by overcrowded, understaffed, and run down schools in their neighborhoods.
Using the word "blowout" as the password for a student strike, 300 Chicano students walked out of Wilson High School on March 1. The following day, 2,000 walked out of Wilson High School; the next day they were joined by 4,500 students from nearby Lincoln and Roosevelt High Schools.
Students were unprepared for the violent police reaction to their protest. As students picketed in front of their high schools, Los Angeles police officers descended, attacking them with clubs.
Officers identified student leaders and chased them through residential neighborhoods, where Mexican American families looked on in shock.
The "blowouts" and the police response attracted national attention, spotlighting the bleak educational conditions in East Los Angeles.
Eventually Castro and 12 others were indicted on charges of criminally conspiring to create riots, disrupt the functioning of the public schools, and disturb the peace.
Thousands of people picketed in front of the Los Angeles jail to support Castro and the 12 others who were called the "East L.A. Thirteen."
Charges were ultimately dropped against the East L.A. Thirteen after an appellate court judge ruled that they were exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights.
On August 2, the California Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Proposition 209, the 1996 initiative barring state affirmative action programs based on race and gender, does not violate the federal constitution.
The decision arose from a lawsuit filed by two white contractors who objected to a 2003 San Francisco ordinance that gives firms owned by racial minorities and women a slight advantage in bids for city contracts.
However, Justice Kathryn Werdegar, writing for the majority, said that the San Francisco ordinance does not necessarily violate Proposition 209. Werdegar wrote that San Francisco's affirmative action program is valid if the city can prove that it is narrowly defined and necessary to overcome intentional discrimination against businesses owned by racial minorities and women.
Immediately after the passage of Proposition 209 by 54% of voters in November 1996, Governor Pete Wilson identified 31 state-funded programs for elimination or curtailment, including summer science programs for elementary school students and hiring programs that ensured recruitment from minority communities.
Civil rights attorneys filed a class action lawsuit to stop Proposition 209 from taking effect. In late December 1996, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the initiative. In 1997, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Henderson's ruling.
Three internationally renowned Sikh religious musicians reached a settlement with US Airways one year after they were removed from a flight at the Sacramento International Airport in an incident of racial and religious profiling and discrimination. After the removal, the trio filed a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation. The musicians, Davinder Singh, Gulbag Singh and Iqbal Singh, are classical religious performers who perform in Sikh Gurdwaras (houses of worship) around the world. Sikhs wearing turbans, as the musicians do, have increasingly been subject to harassment and discrimination after September 11, particularly at airports, as have many other ethnic and religious groups.
Despite federal law prohibiting airlines from targeting and removing passengers based on their religious or ethnic appearance, the trio was subjected to biased treatment from US Airways after passengers expressed baseless concerns about the musicians’ appearance.
Shortly after passing through TSA screening without incident and peacefully boarding a US Airways flight, the men were ordered to leave the plane. They complied with the removal. However, airline employees did not provide any explanation as to why they were being removed, but they were told, through a Panjabi interpreter, that the pilot would not fly with them on board. After suffering humiliation in front of other passengers, the musicians were each handed a $5 meal voucher and forced to delay their travel until the next day. They experienced no problems boarding the Delta flight on which they were rebooked.
The airline did not provide any legitimate security concerns justifying the removal. As terms of the settlement, the Chairman and CEO of US Airways issued an apology to the musicians. The musicians also received an undisclosed amount in compensation for the incident.
This settlement comes just after US Airways' recent settlement in a federal lawsuit in which six Muslim relgious leaders alleged that they had been removed from a flight based on their religious and ethnic backgrounds.
In 1994, the school district in the Central Valley town of Livingston suspended three Sikh children for wearing a kirpan, a small ceremonial knife which baptized Sikhs must wear at all times. After negotiations with the school district failed, the Sikh family sued. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school had to make all reasonable efforts to accomodate the religious beliefs and practices of the children. The district ultimately allowed the children to wear kirpans that had been blunted and firmly sewed into their sheaths.
This lesson will help middle school students understand how the judicial system was fractured over the question of slavery in the decade before the Civil War. Students will compare and contrast the petitions for freedom of Bridget "Biddy" Mason and Archy Lee, slaves who were held in California, and Dred Scott, whose well-known lawsuit for freedom resulted in an infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision. Students will understand attempts by African Americans to realize the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and how those attempts connected to the compromises regarding slavery in the 19th century.