Santa Rosa School Board has agreed to stop the closure of a local elementary school as part of a settlement agreement with families and a community group, who filed a suit citing violations of state education and anti-discrimination laws.
Online PR News – 16-May-2012 – Santa Rosa, CA – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 15, 2012
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SANTA ROSA, CA – Last evening, the Santa Rosa School Board agreed to stop the closure of a local elementary school as part of a settlement agreement with families and a community group, who filed a suit citing violations of state education and anti-discrimination laws. In addition to halting the closure of Doyle Park Elementary School for the 2012-2013 school year, the School Board also agreed to amend its policies to “promote racial and ethnic balance” throughout the school district. Community members, parents, and students attending Doyle Park will be holding a press conference at 3 p.m. this afternoon at Doyle Park Elementary School, located at 1350 Sonoma Avenue in Santa Rosa.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (Lawyers’ Committee) and California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), along with pro bono assistance from Santa Rosa lawyers David Grabill and Edie Sussman, and the San Francisco office of Ropes & Gray LLP, originally filed the lawsuit on April 18, challenging the School Board’s decision to close Doyle Park Elementary and place a French-American charter school at the site. Filed on behalf of the Doyle Park Committee for Educational Equity (DPCEE), a community group comprised of concerned students, parents, teachers, and community members, the suit alleged that the Board’s decision was tainted by a Board member’s conflict of interest and violations of open meeting laws. The suit further contended that the closure would have a negative and disproportionate impact on Latino students, who comprise 75% of the Doyle Park student body, and is in violation of state anti-discrimination laws.
A settlement between the parties was reached and approved by the School Board on May 14. Under the settlement agreement, Doyle Park Elementary will remain open for grades 1 through 6 for the 2012-2013 school year and all currently enrolled Doyle Park students may continue at the school next year. “This settlement is a victory for the Latino students and their families who would be disproportionately impacted by the closure. The District has a continuing duty to provide equal educational opportunities to all students, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Today’s settlement re-affirms that obligation,” stated Lawyers’ Committee Executive Director Kimberly Thomas Rapp.
The French-American charter school will open on the Doyle Park campus in the fall of 2012, and will share the campus with Doyle Park Elementary. “We are delighted that we were able to reach an agreement that best serves the needs of all families impacted by the Board’s original decision,” said Jeff Hoffman, Directing Attorney of CRLA’s Santa Rosa office.
“It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to protect the democratic process. However, it was a necessary step to ensure that the Doyle Park community will have a say in the future of their school,” said pro bono attorney Edie Sussman. "We are proud to have been able to assist in securing this important result for our pro bono clients and the community," said Ropes & Gray partner Thad Davis.
In addition to keeping Doyle Park open for an additional year, the School Board agreed to prioritize exploring the feasibility of opening a Spanish language dual immersion school. “This is a great victory for our community. All Doyle Park families need to know that they can continue to attend Doyle Park next year. We hope that a Spanish dual immersion program will begin in the fall of 2013 at Doyle Park and we are committed to ensuring that it becomes a reality," said Michaele Morales, member of DPCEE and a community activist with P.O.D.E.R. (Padres Organizados por Derechos, Education y Respeto), a group of parents, teachers and community members working to address numerous education equity issues in the area.
About the Lawyers' Committee:
For more than 40 years, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area has worked to advance, protect and promote the legal rights of communities of color, immigrants and refugees -- with a specific focus on low-income communities and a long-standing commitment to African Americans. Lawyers' Committee staff, working with hundreds of pro bono attorneys, provides free legal assistance and representation to individuals on civil legal matters through direct services, impact litigation and policy advocacy. For more information, visit www.lccr.com.
About California Legal Rural Assistance:
Founded in 1966, CRLA’s mission is to fight for justice and individual rights alongside the most exploited communities of our society. Through a network of regional offices in 21 California cities and communities, CRLA provides legal services to over 40,000 people annually through specialized programs focusing on the needs of farm workers, housing, environmental justice, education, individuals with disabilities, immigrant populations, LGBT rights, and women, children and families. For more information on CRLA, please visit: www.crla.org.
About Ropes & Gray LLP:
Ropes & Gray is a leading international law firm with more than 1,100 lawyers in offices across the United States, Asia and Europe. It is proud to be consistently voted a leading law firm to work for, and values its commitment to public service through pro bono work.