Major Settlement In California School Lawsuit Stops “Sham” Classes

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Co-plaintiff Briana Lamb stands before counsel at the 'Cruz v. California' settlement press conference. Photo: N. Nelson/Youth Radio
Co-plaintiff Briana Lamb stands before counsel at the ‘Cruz v. California’ settlement press conference. Photo: N. Nelson/Youth Radio

LOS ANGELES — A settlement was announced today in the case of Cruz v. California, which along with the recently passed AB 1012 (Rep. Reggie Jones-Sawyer D-LA) will stop the practice of placing large number of students in “contentless classes,” sometimes with multiple instances of these placeholder classes on a single student’s class schedule in a given semester.

The class action lawsuit, which was spearheaded by the pro bono firm Public Counsel and the American Civil Liberties Union—was brought in the wake of a scandal involving students being “warehoused” at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. Filed in May of 2014, the settlement today was approved by the State Board of Education. While the lawsuit reflected concerns over six schools—including Castlemont and Fremont High Schools in Oakland—the settlement and AB 1012 will stop the practice of scheduling students for “any course period without educational content, as defined, for more than one week in any semester, except under prescribed conditions.” Both “Service Periods” (working for school officials in menial capacities) and “Home Periods” (which involved sending students home) were described by advocates as “sham classes.”

Speakers at today’s press conference included co-plaintiff Briana Lamb, a former student at Fremont High School in Los Angeles who told the assembled reporters that she had been denied access to classes that she needed and made to take so-called “service periods” instead.

After the conference we spoke with Lamb.

“I’ve learned that you cannot just sit back and take situations that are not for you,” said Lamb, “that don’t benefit you. At this point I’ve learned that you need to speak up. It will always help you in the end. Just speak up and stand up for what you believe in.”

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