Adelanto Parents Win Parent Trigger Lawsuit, Charter Approval

In a huge victory for parent trigger law advocates, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John Vender Freer overruled a decision by the Adelanto Elementary School Board and ordered board members to approve the application submitted by district parents to open a charter on the campus of Desert Trails Elementary School.

This is a major victory for the Adelanto parents who support a charter school at Desert Trails, and for those who have long viewed this case as the major test of the law that allows parents to take over a failing school – the so-called parent trigger law – passed by the California Legislature in 2010.

Shortly after the decision was announced, Adelanto School Board President Carlos Mendoza indicated the board's willingness to comply with the judge's order. He said that the next step is for the parents group to present their charter proposal which the board will then approve.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Doreen Diaz, who was one of the organizers of the Desert Trails petition, and the rest of the group's leadership are currently considering proposals from two charter operators.

Diaz's leadership group is recommending approval of the LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy, which partners with the University of La Verne to operate a K-8 school in nearby Hesperia. LaVerne's student performance, as measured by a 1,000-point scale known as the Academic Performance Index, grew to 911 this year from 869 last year.

Desert Trails Elementary, the school that the new charter will be replacing, had another disappointing year. The school's score fell to 699 from 712. According to Diaz, this serves as further proof that Desert Trails students are being ill-served by their school.

Judge Freer's ruling brings to an end the story that started in 2011 after Diaz and other parents submitted a petition, signed by more than 50% of the students' families, demanding the right to reorganize Desert Trails as a charter school in accordance with the parent trigger law. The board rejected the petition after a few of the parents rescinded their signatures, alleging that they were misled.

The group filed a lawsuit, and a ruling by Superior Court Judge Steve Malone cleared the way for the petition to be accepted. Malone said that the parent trigger law did not provide a mechanism to remove signatures once they've been collected. The decision once again put the number of signatures above the 50% mark, thus allowing the parents to proceed.

The following month, board members complied with the order and accepted the petition — but voted, 3 to 1, to reject the request for a charter because, they said, there would not be enough time to launch one for this school year.

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