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Fremont High School in Los Angeles.

A California judge has denied a request for state intervention at six California high schools where students said they had been assigned to multiple contentless classes, were told to go home, or sit idly in classrooms or perform menial administrative tasks.

In denying a motion for a preliminary injunction, Alameda County Superior Court Judge George Hernandez Jr. delivered a setback for the plaintiffs in the ongoing Cruz v. California lawsuit. The suit accuses the state of failing to address the factors that reduce learning time in some high-poverty schools, despite knowing of their existence and negative impact on students.

The suit was filed in May 2014 on behalf of Jessy Cruz, a student at Fremont High School in Los Angeles, and other students, by public interest law firm Public Counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union and the firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt.

In October, Hernandez ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and issued a preliminary injunction that ordered the California Department of Education to intervene at Thomas Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles, where scheduling problems and inadequate course offerings resulted in some students spending eight weeks in classes during which they received no instruction.

In February, lawyers filed a follow-up motion for a preliminary injunction to remedy conditions at Jefferson and an additional five high schools: Castlemont and Fremont high schools in the Oakland Unified district; Dorsey and Fremont high schools in the Los Angeles Unified district; and Compton High School in the Compton Unified district.

“If, at this stage, plaintiffs cannot supply reliable evidence … (the court) cannot determine, even preliminarily, whether plaintiffs have some possibility of prevailing on their claims,” wrote Alameda County Superior Court Judge George Hernandez Jr.

In his April 17 ruling, Hernandez said the plaintiffs had not given enough specific evidence to prove that the amount of learning time at the six high schools was substantially less than the “prevailing statewide standard” of instructional time at similar California high schools.

He added that he was not suggesting that the claims of lost learning time had no merit.

“The court does not mean to suggest that the policies, procedures and professional norms described in the above-cited declarations, submitted on behalf of the plaintiffs, do not in fact exist. Nor does the court imply that these standards should be ignored.”

But he wrote, “If, at this stage, plaintiffs cannot supply reliable evidence regarding the actual practices of most California high schools with regard to the use of contentless classes and the timely implementation of appropriate master schedules, the court lacks a fair standard against which to measure the performance of plaintiff’s own high schools and cannot determine, even preliminarily, whether plaintiffs have some possibility of prevailing on their claims.”

California Department of Education said it could not comment on the ruling because the matter is still in litigation.


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