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Inside The Law

Parent Trigger Law Taking Effect

Parents fight for and win with Parent Trigger Law.
A victory for parents of Desert Trails (Calif.) Elementary School.

Since the law went into effect in December 2010, the trigger had yet to be pulled on California’s Parent Trigger Law—that is, until a Southern California Superior Court ruled July 23 in favor of a group of parents from the Desert Trails Elementary School, part of the Adelanto (Calif.) School District.

In January, nearly 70 percent of parents signed a petition to improve academic standards at the school, as 70 percent of students entering sixth grade were not proficient in math or English. Parents were seeking either significant reforms in Desert Trails or the establishment of a charter school if reform efforts failed. As no progress had been made by the district, the judge ruled that parents can “immediately begin the process of soliciting and selecting charter school proposals.”

The school board had originally been resistant to the signatures, as some parents had rescinded their signatures. According to the board, the trigger only had 37 percent support instead of the original 70 percent. In his ruling, the judge said that signatures cannot be rescinded.

Actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis will star in a film about the Parent Trigger Law in September.Won’t Back Down: The Movie Since 2010, parent trigger laws have cropped up in Texas, Mississippi and, most recently, Louisiana. These laws may attract attention in other states in the coming months not only because of the Desert Trails victory but because of a new movie debuting in September. Won’t Back Down, a fictional movie featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, follows two parents, one of which is a teacher, who use a parent trigger law to overhaul their children’s struggling school. Early reviews of the film have said it’s expected to raise the issue of education reform nationwide.

With their July 23 victory, the parents of Desert Trails may have just stolen this film’s thunder. Although they were the first, however, it’s anticipated that they won’t be the last.


Marion Herbert is associate editor.