Sacramento Parents Bring Lawsuit to Stop School Closures

The Sacramento Bee reports that a number of families are filing a lawsuit to stop the district from closing 7 elementary school currently operating in the Sacramento City Unified School District. The lawsuit alleges that the district specifically targeted schools in high-minority, low-income areas because officials believe that residents who fall into those demographics don’t have the political influence needed to oppose the move.

The attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families, Mark Merin, has requested an injunction that could put the closures on hold until the lawsuit is settled. According to Merin, the U.S. District Court Judge could make a ruling on the injunction as early as next month.

The suit described the decision by a slim majority of the school district board as “motivated by an intent to discriminate against minority populations which dominate in these schools.” Closing the schools, the suit warned, will have a “disastrous discriminatory effect on the poor, disadvantaged population.”

Trustees originally considered closing as many as 11 schools before voting on seven after getting community feedback. District officials said they identified campuses for closure based on how little each elementary school used its capacity, a measurement they suggested would save the most money.

Board President Jeff Cuneo and District Superintendent Jonathan Raymond disagreed with Merin’s assertions in the strongest words. They called the lawsuit “baseless” and added that the only thing that it would accomplish is to drain more money from the district’s already empty coffers.

Merin claims that the process to determine which schools were subject to closure violated federal and state laws guaranteeing due process and prohibiting discrimination bases on race or national origin. The lawsuit also makes an argument resting on the Americans with Disabilities Act because a number of students affected are classified as special needs.

“It was clear that our communities were unfairly targeted,” said Seng Vang of the activist group.

“The district betrayed our community’s trust by targeting schools they had no justification for closing down,” she said.

In a separate statement, she said that low-income families make up 72 percent of the student population district-wide but constitute 98 percent of the students who will be displaced by the closures.

Bee research shows about 93 percent of students attending the seven closure schools are minorities, compared with 81 percent district-wide.