In what one education official called the first such lawsuit in California, two Hawthorne parents filed suit this week seeking an injunction to prevent the Hawthorne School District from putting the last five of its nine campuses on a year-round calendar.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, contends that district officials failed to adequately notify parents that they intended to put the schools on a year-round calendar, depriving parents of their right to seek a petition to put the issue before voters.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Hawthorne parents Albert La Mere and Gladys Carlson, represents “the first time this particular section of the Education Code has been tested in a court of law in California,” said Charles Ballinger, executive director of the National Assn. for Year-Round Education.
The parents initially sought a temporary restraining order to keep the district from holding a “track-selection” day on Saturday in which parents would enroll their children in one of four schedule tracks, said Assistant Supt. Don Carrington. After the restraining order was turned down, the parents filed the request for an injunction, which will be heard in court April 4.
Last July, the district put four of its most crowded schools--Ukon Intermediate and Eucalyptus, Williams and Zela Davis elementary schools--on a year-round schedule and announced that additional schools were being considered for the change. On Jan. 9, district trustees unanimously voted to shift the five remaining schools to a year-round calendar. They are Hawthorne Intermediate and Jefferson, Ramona, Washington and York elementary schools.
In their lawsuit, parents say district officials misled them to believe that schools that are not overcrowded would be spared the schedule change.
“They, in a sense, lied to us,” said La Mere, who has two daughters at Ramona. “I’m very upset. In my heart, I know it’s wrong. It’s not a better education, and it doesn’t cut classroom size down.”
But Carrington said the district’s July announcement that a year-round calendar was under consideration had given parents “ample opportunity” to circulate a petition before the Dec. 10 deadline to put the issue on the April ballot.
“We believed that we followed the proper steps as outlined in the Education Code, and it’s regrettable, at a time when finances are so restricted, that we’re forced now to pay for attorney fees to deal with this action,” Carrington said.
Throughout the months of debate over year-round schooling, parents with children at Ramona and Hawthorne Intermediate were the most vocal opponents to the change. Ramona parents, in particular, argued that their campus, in an upscale neighborhood with mostly single-family homes, did not experience the same population growth as campuses in areas that saw a boom in apartment construction.
But district officials said Ramona and Hawthorne Intermediate are fast on their way to becoming overcrowded, if only because district officials need to shift students there to ease conditions at other schools, some of which have been so crowded that students must take their lunch breaks in 10-minute shifts.