City Hall (File photo)

by MARIA LOYA

As a SMMUSD parent and the plaintiff in the CVRA lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica, I would like to respond to several letters published that falsely claim that I or my husband are behind the recent lawsuit filed by Kevin Shenkman against SMMUSD for unlawful student fees. For the record, not myself nor Oscar recommended that Kevin and the plaintiffs sue the school district. In fact, we have no control over what litigation Mr. Shenkman decides to take on. However, I do support any parent or resident’s right to hold its government accountable for not following the law. 

I filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica for violating the CA. Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause in our State Constitution. Judge Palazuelos agreed on both counts that the City of Santa Monica instituted an at-large election system to intentionally make it difficult for people of color to get elected to the City Council. Early in the process, we reached out to City officials with the intent to address the issue and avoid litigation but we were ignored. The City Council decided to move forward to defend an unlawful election system because they wanted to preserve their political position at the cost of millions of public dollars. It is no surprise that defenders of the current City Council avoid mentioning the intentional harm that was done to voters of color and residents who were marginalized by the unconstitutional at large election scheme. They would rather have the readers believe that some how district elections will harm rent control, when in fact, the current City Council has been responsible for over development and the destruction of thousands of rent control units in the past 10 years. 

Back to the issue of the SMMUSD litigation at hand. The question to ask is- Why are people writing letters making false claims that Oscar and I are somehow behind the lawsuit against SMMUSD? Could it be that we are a distraction to the decisions being made by the majority of the School Board that is resulting in the wasteful misuse of public funds that could otherwise go to the education of our children?

Did Mr. Shenkman and the plaintiffs attempt to settle this issue out of court? If SMMUSD violated the law by charging parents for supplies or fees, why would SMMUSD move forward with the lawsuit and not settle? These are all good questions that must be asked. But instead we are presented with a false narrative that only works to vilify the parents that are raising serious legal concerns instead of holding Board members accountable who are voting to misuse public funds to defend an unlawful practice. 

This kind of tactic isn’t new for SMMUSD. In 2014 parents raised health concerns tied to PCBs in the school buildings. Many teachers and students were claiming to have gotten sick due to PCB exposure. Instead of testing and remediating the problem, the majority of the Board led our district into an entrenched legal battle that cost our school district millions of dollars in public relations, environmental firms and legal fees. In the end, the school district lost the case and was forced by the courts to do what Oscar urged the Board to do. Millions would have been saved if they would have listened. The same pattern is once again repeating itself and for the record, Oscar has urged the school board to stop wasting public funds and instead do what’s right. 

Since legal matters are always part of closed session discussions the public has no way of knowing which elected official is for or against litigation. Maybe it’s time for more transparency and a change in policy so that the public can know who is really wasting our children’s education for their misguided and ego driven legal adventures. 

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