I'm going to tell you a rather startling fact: Since submitting their historic Parent Trigger signatures (representing over 61 percent of their school) to the Compton Unified School District over a month ago, the parents of McKinley Elementary have not heard a word back from their school district.
Not one word.
They submitted this letter emphasizing the district's Feburary 5 deadline to ratify their petition, and requesting meetings with each school board member and the Superintendent. When they didn't receive any reply, they submitted a second letter to each board member, following up later with phone calls. And they still - over a month later - have yet to hear a word back in response, other than a vaguely worded press release essentially indicating that the district does not intend to follow the law.
So what has the district been doing for the past five weeks?
It seems that rather than bother to communicate with their own parents who are demanding change, they have chosen to spend their energies organizing an underground, secretive, unethical, unregulated, and possibly even illegal "rescission" campaign.
Let's unpack all that.
The unethical and possibly illegal tactics that the district and school staff members have been using are well documented by now. They have been using children as political pawns, telling them things like, "your mom is a big mouth and needs to shut up," or sending them home crying and saying things such as, "mom, I hate you for what you're doing at the school."
At the same time, school and district staff members have been telling outright lies to the parents themselves. Parents are being told that if their school is transformed under the Parent Trigger, all special education students will be kicked out, or even that just 80 percent of the kids altogether will be summarily removed altogether. One teacher, Mr. Tellez, summarized this deeply unethical "rescission" campaign perfectly when he told one mom, "Ms. Hernandez, you will regret having supported Celerity when your child is rejected by them." This same teacher, Mr. Tellez, was so brazenly confident in his unethical tactics that he wrote these same lies on the internet for all to see (although he has now attempted to cover up the evidence).
These are the tactics being used to gather so-called "rescissions" from parents who signed the Parent Trigger petition.
The district and the McKinley PTA, working in tandem, have chosen to be deeply secretive about this entire process. They recently told the media that they had gathered over 100 "rescission" signatures collected from parents, but then refused to show them to anyone, the media included. When later asked on a radio show about that claim, PTA member Pastor Lee Finnie immediately walked it back, said he couldn't talk about it at all "because our lawyers won't let us," and said that the "rescissions" are "nobody's concern."
An overwhelming majority of McKinley parents organized and stood up for change, using the Parent Trigger law for the first time ever to force a transformation of their failing school. In response, the school PTA and the district have organized an underground, unethical, and possibly illegal "rescission" campaign. And they think their efforts and this process are "nobody's concern?"
Given the underhanded tactics that the PTA and school staff are using, I can certainly understand why they don't want their underground, secretive campaign to be anyone's "concern." But I think the parents and children of McKinley deserve better than that.
Furthermore, it is time for the district to finally answer to their role in this process. They have already deeply undercut their own credibility by claiming to the media that "no school resources have been used" to push "rescission" petitions, a claim that is both verifiably and laughably false. Besides this false denial, two critical questions remain.
First, who are these anonymous "lawyers" telling PTA parents what to do? We have been saying for weeks that this entire "rescission" campaign smacks of the same union-busting tactics used against workers who organize. As it just so happens, Compton Unified's outside counsel is Littler Mendelson, the most notorious anti-worker, union-busting law firm on the West Coast.
So is Compton Unified using Littler Mendelson, under the guise of some "grassroots" PTA campaign, to essentially "union bust" parents who are organizing for change? And if so, how much money are they taking out of the classroom to pay for this unethical and possibly illegal activity?
Not only is this "rescission" campaign unethical, secretive, and possible illegal, but it is also being done in a completely unregulated environment. Unlike the initial petition gathering, which was conducted in strict compliance with existing state law and regulations, there are no rules governing any of the underground "rescission" campaign now taking place. The district has taken advantage of this regulatory "wild wild west" to do just about anything - including lying to parents and children - in their desperate attempt to stop change.
Through it all, however, parents are still standing up, fighting for change, and growing this campaign by the day. Not only are more parents coming on board every week, but parents who signed "rescission" petitions are now rescinding those "rescissions" and coming back on board with McKinley Parents for Change.
Just listen to one such mother in her own words. From a recent LA Weekly article:
But after a private "town meeting" between parents and McKinley administrators, this mother says the failure of school administrators to communicate any real reform plan to help her little girl made her go with Parent Revolution. The Compton school leaders "didn't have a [formal] agenda," she says. Some people she had never seen before arrived at the town meeting, claiming they were parents, and she says they "were yelling, 'Don't believe Parent Trigger' because of all these things that didn't make sense."
This mom, who has since rescinded her "rescission" signature, perfectly summarizes why the Parent Trigger is such an important law; because parents just see public education differently than everyone else involved. For them, it's not about yelling and screaming, or ad hominem attacks. It's not about who can be the angriest or yell the loudest. It is about who can get their children - her little girl - the best possible education. Period.
Follow Ben Austin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/parentrev