Three named plaintiffs (each a minor, acting through their parents) were African American and Latino students who had attended, but had been expelled or indefinitely excluded from, comprehensive middle school or high school in the Berkeley Unified School District. Citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the ...
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Three named plaintiffs (each a minor, acting through their parents) were African American and Latino students who had attended, but had been expelled or indefinitely excluded from, comprehensive middle school or high school in the Berkeley Unified School District. Citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiffs brought litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on August 13, 2004, against the Berkeley Unified School District (the “District”), the Berkeley Board of Education, Superintendent, and Director of the Offices of Student Services. The plaintiffs were represented by private counsel and attorneys from Legal Services for Children and the Youth and Education Law Clinic.
Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants, pursuant to a policy and practice of unlawfully infringing upon the constitutional due process and statutory rights of plaintiffs, wrongfully and arbitrarily excluded them from school or wrongfully and arbitrarily reassigned them from comprehensive school programs to county community schools, continuation schools, home-hospital instruction programs, and independent study programs for the alleged violations of student conduct rules. These policies, according to plaintiffs, had a disparate negative impact and arbitrarily and discriminatorily excluded African American and Latino students from comprehensive school programs by assigning them to non-comprehensive alternative programs. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants’ policies and practices denied plaintiffs their right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States, as well as denying plaintiffs’ state constitutional, statutory, and regulatory rights. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, class action status for their case, and payment of attorneys’ fees and costs. The plaintiff class was defined as African Americans and Latinos self-identified as such in official records who have been students in the Berkeley Unified School District and who have been involuntarily excluded from comprehensive school or involuntarily reassigned from comprehensive school programs to non-comprehensive alternative programs for alleged violations of the District’s student conduct rules without having received appropriate due process of law.
By December 2004, a mediator had been assigned to the case and subsequent settlement discussions resulted in a March 2005 proposed consent decree and provisional certification of a settlement class. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil preliminarily approved the settlement and class certification on May 17, 2005. After a final fairness hearing, Magistrate Judge Brazil signed the stipulated judgment and order certifying the class, designating class representatives, and appointing class counsel on August 17, 2005.
The settlement provided for means of identifying and contacting potential class members and offering them immediate reinstatement in the district’s schools, if they remained otherwise eligible. Each individual class member would receive an individualized education plan setting out how the district would aid the student in earning credits and provide compensatory educational services to the student. Students found to have been unlawfully excluded from the district’s school would have their records expunged or modified to reflect the exclusion was unlawful. A monitoring committee would ensure that policies, practices and training programs were adopted to prevent unlawful exclusion of students in the future, and would be provided data by the district to enable addressing racial or ethnic disproportionality in school discipline. A dispute resolution process and a students’ rights monitoring committee were established by the settlement. The agreement called for the monitoring committee to make quarterly reports to the court on district compliance. The agreement set out a three-year time frame, after which the district could move for termination of the decree if it believed it had complied sufficiently. A compliance hearing by the court would independently assess compliance, however. Finally, the consent decree called for defendants to make payment of $50,000 as plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs.
On March 4, 2011 the Court granted the parties' Joint Motion to lift the Consent Decree and terminate the litigation. Joshua Arocho - 06/05/2012