ACLU sues district over conditions of school for at-risk students

July 15, 2012

An anonymous 22-page complaint has initiated a lawsuit filed by two legal advocacy organizations against West Contra Costa Unified over the conditions of the district’s community day school. Jory Steele, managing attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, called it “the worst case of neglect” involving a school that she has seen. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights co-filed the lawsuit on behalf of two taxpayers.

Community day schools serve the most at-risk, troubled population of students: students who have been expelled, have been abused, and have served time in Juvenile Hall. The state provides extra money – $4,000 per student beyond standard per-student funding – for small classes, counseling, and other intensive services.

The lawsuit alleges the district failed to spend the money on the students. It said that there was no regular math or science teacher, no designated support services, and that the conditions of the two portables where the school was located were deplorable, with, at times, no electricity, no heat, leaky ceilings, insufficient numbers of desks and chairs, and rat and feral cat feces.

The district failed to respond to a records request  for documentation of budget expenditures for the schools or records of student attendance, Steele said. ACLU research indicated 84 students were eligible to attend the school, although the district assigned only 30, and fewer than that regularly showed up. The school is on on the site of the district’s continuation high school in Richmond.

The district declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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