Backers of Calif. Parent Trigger Law Score Victory in Court

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Superior Court judge has ruled that a Mojave Desert (Calif.) school board illegally rejected a parent petition to turn over an elementary school to a charter, in a major victory for supporters of California’s parent trigger law.

In a decision made public Monday, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Steve Malone ruled that the Adelanto School District improperly allowed 97 parents at Desert Trails Elementary School to rescind their signatures, which caused support for the petition to drop below the required 50% threshold.

Under regulations adopted last fall by the state Board of Education, Malone ruled, the parent trigger law does not allow recisions and explicitly states that parents "shall be free from ... being encouraged to revoke their signatures on a petition."

Malone also ruled that the regulations restricted a school district's duty in reviewing petitions to verifying eligible signatures only — not to invalidate those from parents who change their minds.

The question of whether signatures can be revoked has been one of the most bitterly contested issues of the state's pioneering parent trigger law, which allows parents at persistently low-performing schools to petition to overhaul staff and curriculum, close the campus or turn management over to a charter operator. Charters are independent, publicly financed schools.

Although the law was passed in 2010, only two school districts so far have launched parent trigger campaigns — Compton and Adelanto. In both cases, some parents have revoked their initial support of the petition after the campaigns became embroiled in bitter charges and countercharges of deceit and harassment.

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