California Judge: Access to Literacy Lawsuit May Proceed


Less than two weeks after a federal judge in Michigan dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of Detroit students claiming they lacked the resources to attain literacy, a California judge refused to throw out another suit filed by parents of students from Los Angeles, Inglewood, and Stockton, which alleges the state has failed to improve literacy education and make it available to all students.

So how is the California case different?

Students and Plaintiffs

The Michigan suit was filed in federal court and alleged that the state’s failure to address “devastating” conditions in several Detroit schools amounted to violations of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. While the lawsuit in California was filed in state court and claims the failure to provide adequate literacy education is based on race, specifically at La Salle Avenue Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Van Buren Elementary School in Stockton and Inglewood Unified charter school Children of Promise Preparatory Academy.

Though California Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos remained skeptical of some of the parents’ claims, she denied the state’s motion to dismiss. “Plaintiffs’ allegation that this action is brought on behalf of former and current California students at plaintiffs’ schools is sufficient to demonstrate that the class is limited to minorities at the three schools,” Palazuelos wrote, adding that there was enough information demonstrating the state illegally spends taxpayer money on a system of public education that “engages in unconstitutional discrimination.”

Reading and Writing

The families are represented by the pro bono firm Public Counsel, which claims the state of California deprives thousands of public school students (most of whom are low-income students of color) access to basic literacy instruction. California is home to 11 of the 26 lowest performing large school districts nationwide, according to Public Counsel. The three schools in the lawsuit are in the bottom ten schools in the state, meaning that those students are receiving some of the worst basic literacy education in the nation.

“Today’s ruling is a step forward for California students who are asking for nothing more than the tools and resources necessary for a basic literacy education,” said one of the attorneys for the student plaintiffs, Mark Rosenbaum. “This ruling allows us to have our day in court to prove how California is failing these students by depriving them of the right to literacy.”

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