To the Editor:

Did you recently receive a letter and email from SMMUSD about a lawsuit called de Baca, et al. vs. SMMUSD? Are you wondering what it’s about?

This group of recent and current SMMUSD parents wants to know: why aren’t Ms. de Baca and her co-plaintiff using the simple process the District has for any fee complaints?

We don’t know. What we do know is that unless we opted out of having our contact information released by Feb.4, a short deadline many parents missed, the lawyer behind that suit will try to assemble us all into a class action lawsuit against our own school District . The plaintiff Ms. de Baca is a longtime board member of the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) with Oscar de la Torre and Maria Loya. Do those names ring a bell? Mr. de la Torre is a longtime SMMUSD School Board member, and Maria Loya is his wife. She is also the name behind a very expensive lawsuit ongoing against the City, Pico Neighborhood Association and Loya vs. City of Santa Monica.

What else do these two lawsuits have in common, besides the fact that we, the taxpayers, are stuck with the bill? They were both filed by attorney Kevin Shenkman, who is working closely with Ms. Loya and Mr. de la Torre in the litigation against the City. ( This lawyer is suing cities and school districts up and down California, making millions in the process.

Kevin Shenkman is a Malibu parent. Why is he working on a case that will take dollars out of the classroom? Why isn’t his friend School Board Member Mr. de la Torre working to oppose or mediate this claim to protect the District he supposedly represents?

We’d like to know what Board Member de la Torre’s priorities are — they don’t appear to be protecting District resources to best serve the children of SMMUSD.

We recommend that everyone who did not opt out of having their information released to Mr. Shenkman by February 4 ignore his future calls, emails and letters about participating in a class action lawsuit.

And next time there’s a School Board election, we all need to step up so our kids can have better representation from their elected officials.


Grace Phillips, Current SMMUSD Parent
Joe Pertel, Current SMMUSD Parent
Raquel Vallejo, Current SMMUSD Parent
Eric Shepnick, SMMUSD Graduate and Current Parent
Jill Boberg, Recent SMMUSD Parent
Stefanie Gazzana, Current SMMUSD Parent
Julie Pearl Slater, Current SMMUSD Parent

(updated Feb. 5, 2019 to reflect passing of opt-out deadline)

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1 Comment

  1. This is not a war on SMMUSD. The District is not a sacred trust that needs to be protected, like the honor of a damsel in distress. I invite this parent posse to engage in a little due diligence. A simple search of special education due process might open their eyes to how the District actually operates. It might surprise them to find out that SMMUSD has and does file due process cases against students with disabilities. (Clutch the pearls) The law requires that a public school system provide students with a free and appropriate public education. That does not mean that parents have to pay $80 for P.E. clothes or $12 for a dollar store planner. Before people jump in to defend the District, they might want to find out how the District actually operates, not their ideals about the situation. SMMUSD is not exempt from obeying federal law.

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