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Highschoolers Say They Were Forced To Take Out Trash For Class Credit

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High school students from Los Angeles to Oakland have won a class-action settlement this Thursday over being forced to take "fake" classes where some say they did grunt work like take out the trash or sat around in cafeterias and learned nothing.

Mark Rosenbaum, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs and director of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, said that students had been enrolled in classes with no academic content, according to the L.A. Times. He said that during these "sham periods," students would be doing things like taking out the garbage, making coffee, watering plants and sorting faculty mail. Some had bogus "home courses" where students got to leave school and go home before noon, Rosenbaum said. The suit also claimed that schools in the lawsuit purposely kept students from taking the courses they needed to graduate, according to KCAL 9.

One of the students named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, Jessy Cruz, a senior at John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles, said that he had to take three courses that didn't have any instructional merit, leading to the fact that he didn't have enough credits to graduate, the Press Telegram reports.

The class action lawsuit, Cruz v. State of California, involved six schools that were located in low-income areas heavily populated with minorities: John C. Fremont High, Thomas B. Jefferson High School and Susan Miller Dorsey High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District; Compton High School in the Compton Unified School District; and Castlemont High School and Fremont High School in the Oakland Unified School District.

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It was filed by Public Counsel with the help of the ACLU of Southern California on behalf of the students in May 2014 in the Alameda County Superior Court, and the state Board of Education voted on Thursday to approve a settlement. The settlement would make major changes so that students would be getting the education they need. State education officials would be required over the next two years to help schools with major scheduling issues or when there were a large number of students being assigned to these bogus classes; change the student information system to flag incidents whenever schools assigned these type of "fake" classes, and notify all California districts of these new requirements.

It would also require that the education department pay $400,000 in legal fees to the plaintiffs when the settlement gets the final approval by a judge.

"The settlement in the Cruz case ensures that California's most vulnerable students will no longer be sent home or warehoused in contentless classes, and it communicates the message that the promise of equal education requires no less than a full day of instruction for all of California's students," said Kathryn Eidmann, an attorney with Public Counsel, according to the Press Telegram.

Briana Lamb told KCAL 9 that in her senior year at Fremont High School, even though she repeatedly asked administrators if she could take other courses, she ended up having to go to do work like stamp letters and cut paper out of workbooks.

"They're not in Beverly Hills, they're not in Palo Alto," Rosenbaum told KCAL 9, "so they just assumed this is part of the norm."

Last year in Thomas B. Jefferson High School in South L.A., hundreds of senior students, who needed credits to graduate, were forced to sit around in the gym or cafeteria and do nothing. Rosenbaum told KCAL 9 that when he asked a school official about it, he said the official said, "I've never been to Jefferson, I don't know what's going on in Jefferson, I haven't paid any attention to what's going on in Jefferson, it's not my job."

Well, that's going to change, Rosenbaum said.