Judge sides with Compton parents

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has slapped down Compton Unified over tactics it used against parents who have launched the state’s first parent trigger initiative.

In a ruling Wednesday Judge Anthony Mohr issued an injunction prohibiting the district from requiring McKinley Elementary School parents who signed the parent trigger petition from showing up in person to verify their signatures and to prove their identities with a photo ID. Mohr has given Compton Unified until 5 p.m. April 1 to verify the parents’ signatures.

In December, more than half of the McKinley Elementary parents signed a petition demanding that Compton Unified turn the school over to a charter school operator – one of four reform options under the parent empowerment law that the Legislature passed last year. The district in turn imposed the verification requirements that the judge has now declared unconstitutional on the grounds that that the district’s requirements violated parents’ First Amendment speech rights. The district has also rejected the petition on technicalities; the court has not yet ruled on that response, although the judge’s April 1 deadline may indicate he wants to move quickly on outstanding issues.

In April, the State Board will consider regulations on how the parent trigger petitions should be handled; verification of signatures is only one of the issues that the law itself fails to clarify. Mohr’s ruling based on First Amendment speech rights is instructive. It signals that the State Board should avoid imposing tight restrictions on signature gathering.

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (www.TOPed.org), one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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