The California Department of Justice has launched a “fact-finding mission” into the Oakland Unified School District over its plan to close seven schools and merge two others, as the closures may violate students’ rights to equal access to education.
Early this year when the Oakland Unified School District announced it was closing a bunch of schools over budget woes and declining enrollment (a plan whose current incarnation is to close seven schools and merge two others), the response from teachers and parents was very Bay Area: hunger strikes, student walkouts, and activists occupying a shuttered school. In April, the ACLU filed a complaint with the California Department of Justice, saying that Oakland Unified had ”failed to analyze the racial equity of closing the selected schools.”
And it seems the Department of Justice may have listened. KTVU reports that the department has opened a probe into the Oakland school district over the closures, and at this point has initiated a “fact-finding mission.”
We don’t know what this probe entails yet, as its details are not public. But KTVU reports that “the Bureau of Children’s Justice, a unit within the Civil Rights Enforcement Section of the California Department of Justice is on a fact-finding mission over potential children’s civil rights violations, including the right to equal access to education and educational opportunity.”
Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is not talking either. “Any questions about AG [Attorney General] activities should be directed to the AG,” the district said in a statement to KTVU. “The District does not comment on or confirm any possible legal matters."
But the teachers' union, the Oakland Educators Association (OEA), had also filed a complaint, and they’re pleased to see that some manner of investigation is underway. "It is a civil rights issue," OEA President Keith Brown tells KTVU. "We do take it seriously and it is a strong sign that the issues that have been raised by parents in the community have merit."
All we know at this point is the the California DOJ has sent letters to parents whose kids are affected by the closures, and is setting up interviews with those parents. One of them is Tiana Scott, whose children attend Carl B. Munck Elementary in Crestmont, which is slated to close at the end of the current school year.
"OUSD is redlining one of the most vulnerable populations in their district," Scott told KTVU. "They are putting financial decisions over the social, emotional needs of the students they claim to care about."