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Calif. judge rules district improperly rejected parents' petition, must implement reforms
LOS ANGELES (AP) ¯¯¯ A judge has ruled that a San Bernardino County school district abused its discretion in rejecting a parent petition for reforms at a failing elementary school, paving the way for the first use of California's controversial "parent-trigger" law.
In a decision handed down late Friday, Superior Court Judge Steve Malone ordered the Adelanto Elementary School District to accept the petition filed by the Desert Trails Parents Union within 30 days and to immediately seek proposals from charter school operators to take over Desert Trails Elementary School.
District officials did not immediately return a request for comment.
The ruling marks a significant victory for the 2010 parent-trigger law, which allows parents to force reforms at a failing school through a petition signed by 50 percent of the school's parents.
The law has met heavy resistance from teachers unions and school districts. In an earlier case, a judge last year denied a petition at the request of the Compton Unified School District because parents did not date their signatures.
In this case, the Adelanto school board twice rejected the petition earlier this year after opponents waged a campaign to have parents rescind their signatures, sending the number of validated signatures below the 50 percent threshold.
Desert Trails parent organizers also said they found evidence that petition signatures had been fraudulently altered.
Malone ruled that signature rescissions should not have been allowed, saying it was an "abuse of discretion" by the district, which is charged with validating the signatures.
"This is a huge milestone in our struggle for our children to receive the basic education they are entitled to and deserve," said Doreen Diaz, lead petitioner and coordinator of the Desert Trails Parent Union.
The parent-trigger movement has been spearheaded by a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Parent Revolution. The law has inspired at least six other states to adopt their own parent-led reform models.
Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, hailed the ruling as a historic victory.
"These parents took on the most powerful special interests in the state, and they won," he said.
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