Report Card

News and discussion on K-12 schools in the greater Sacramento region

July 3, 2013
Federal judge sets hearing on Sacramento City school closures

A federal judge in Sacramento today granted a July 11 hearing on a lawsuit that parents and students filed to block closure of seven elementary schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District.

The suit filed last month contends that the district chose to close campuses in low-income, high-minority areas in south Sacramento because they are "without political influence or organization."

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller said she will allow limited testimony from the plaintiffs' expert witness.

Mark Merin, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said the witness, Dr. Jesus Hernandez, will be able to "augment and explain the basis for this opinion and conclusions that this is a case of intentional discrimination against poor and minority communities in favor of white communities."

"The district has filed thousands of pages in opposition to the request for a preliminary injunction," Merin said. "So it will be an interesting hearing.

"I'm pleased she (Mueller) has put this on an accelerated schedule, recognizing the importance of making a decision quickly."

A spokeswoman for the school district said the district may have a response later today.

Last month, district Superintendent Jonathan Raymond and board President Jeff Cuneo called the filing "an unsubstantiated and baseless lawsuit" that would be costly for the district.

Trustees earlier this year considered closing as many as 11 schools before voting on seven after getting community feedback. District officials said they identified campuses for closure based on how little each elementary school made use of its capacity, a measurement they said would save the most money.

The campuses now headed for closure will require some 2,300 students attending Washington, Maple, Collis P. Huntington, Fruit Ridge, Joseph Bonnheim, Mark Hopkins and Clayton B. Wire elementary campuses to travel longer distances to schools that often lack support programs, especially for special-needs students, the suit said.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, in addition to the displaced students and their parents or guardians, include parent-teacher associations at three closing campuses.

The suit names as defendants the school district, Raymond and the four trustees who supported the closure plan -- Cuneo, Vice President Patrick Kennedy and members Darrel Woo and Jay Hansen.

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About Report Card

Loretta KalbLoretta Kalb started her reporting career at The Sacramento Union, moved to KOVR-13 as a television reporter, editor and producer, headed to The Associated Press in San Francisco and eventually returned to Sacramento and joined The Sacramento Bee. Throughout her career, she has covered the state Legislature, courts, local government and, now, education. She is a Chico native and an Elk Grove resident.

Diana LambertDiana Lambert began her journalism career as a proofreader at the Lodi News-Sentinel. She is now a senior writer at The Sacramento Bee covering K-12 education and California State University, Sacramento. Previously she was The Bee’s Elk Grove bureau chief. Lambert was raised in a military family and lived at bases around the globe. She attended four high schools, graduating from Tokay High in Lodi and then Sacramento State University. She lives in Elk Grove.

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