Lawyers for UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young and the University of California Regents have appealed an injunction that would force them to reopen the university’s Fernald School for learning-disabled children.
Parents of children enrolled in the school thought they had won a victory last month when a Superior Court judge issued the injunction ordering the university to open Fernald for fall classes.
Fernald parents and their lawyers said that Young and the regents are under court order to reopen Fernald, which Young had planned to permanently close this summer.
But on Friday lawyers for the University of California appealed the preliminary injunction. They claim that the injunction is automatically stayed until their appeal is heard, which could be several months from now.
Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Richard G. Harris signed the injunction, which was sought as part of a pending lawsuit filed by seven parents of Fernald students.
The suit charges Young and the regents with discrimination against disabled children because of the closure of the 65-year-old school and asks for an unspecified amount of damages.
Young announced the closing of the school in February, citing its “lack of contributions to UCLA’s teaching and research programs.”
Parents of Fernald’s 65 to 70 students have contended that the school is the best available for learning-disabled students. But the regents have turned down several appeals by the parents to overrule Young and keep the school open.
‘Damage to Students’
“If the school is not opened, it will cause damage to the students,” Harold Friedman, one of the parents filing the suit, said last week. “Many parents have not been able to find a suitable replacement school for their children. The university is playing chicken with these kids.”
However, there is uncertainty over whether the injunction has been stayed pending a hearing of the university’s appeal. James Lahana, an attorney representing the Fernald parents, maintains that it is a prohibitory injunction that prevents the university from closing the school and cannot be stayed by the filing of an appeal.
But attorney Shelley Drake, who is representing the chancellor and the regents, said UCLA announced in February that it would close the school on June 30. Since the school is already closed, the injunction is a mandatory injunction that compels the university to reopen it but is automatically stayed when appealed, she said.
Harris said he intentionally did not classify the order as either mandatory or prohibitory. “The order speaks for itself,” he said. “The court of appeals can figure out whether it is mandatory or prohibitory.”
The order, in part, says that UCLA “shall immediately notify . . . students that the Fernald School will be open and operating until further order of the court.”
In a written statement, Young said, “The university is making plans which would enable it to be in a position to reopen the school as quickly as possible and comply with the Superior Court’s order should it become effective.”
Young has named UCLA Prof. Frank Hewett, a former Fernald teacher, as interim director should the school open.
Parents of students who attended Fernald between February and June of this year and are interested in returning their children to the school this fall should call Bryant Wieneke of the chancellor’s office at (213) 206-1243 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, a university spokeswoman said.