LOS ANGELES (May 13, 2010) – Morrison & Foerster LLP, along with co-counsel from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Public Counsel Law Center, yesterday won a preliminary injunction protecting the constitutional right to equal educational opportunity for students at three inner-city public schools in Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”). The preliminary injunction issued by Judge William Highberger in Los Angeles Superior Court will stop a second round of teacher layoffs at these schools and push the State and LAUSD to make changes to prevent budget-based layoffs from disproportionately affecting the most challenged schools.
In response to State budget cuts in the 650,000-student district – the nation’s second largest – LAUSD laid off thousands of teachers in 2009 and is in the process of laying off thousands more in 2010. The reductions, however, were not evenly spread through the district. Plaintiffs’ schools were the hardest hit. In 2009, LAUSD sent Reduction in Force (“RIF”) notices to 60% of the teachers at Liechty, 48% at Gompers, and 46% at Markham. Many other LAUSD middle schools had less than 15% of their teachers laid off. In 2010, LAUSD was set to lay off 49% of the teachers at Liechty, 21% at Gompers, and 30% at Markham. At the same time, over 30 of the 69 LAUSD middle schools would lose less than 10% of their teachers. The layoffs at Plaintiffs’ schools decimated the teaching corps and prevented the delivery of equal educational opportunity. As Judge Highberger’s order states, “The evidence shows that in many of Plaintiffs’ classes, little to no instruction took place.” He also noted that “LAUSD submitted no evidence rebutting Plaintiffs’ showing of the horrible experiences of certain students at Plaintiffs’ schools in recent months,” and he relied on “evidence that students have missed and will miss critical instruction in core academic subjects.”
Although defendants in the case, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the State Board of Education supported the issuance of the preliminary injunction to protect the constitutional rights of the students at the three schools.
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome. This historic decision will help protect the constitutional right of all California public school students to receive equal educational opportunity,” said Morrison & Foerster partner Sean Gates.
Along with Mr. Gates, Morrison & Foerster partners Jack Londen and Shane Brun as well as associates Dale Larson, Diana Luo, and Ryan Malloy worked on the case. The firm handled the case pro bono.