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Intimidation Alleged in School Controversy

by Vickie Vértiz
After a state senator complained, the Orange County District Attorney requested that the president of the Anaheim City School District investigate allegations of parent intimidation and harassment as they try to improve their struggling school.
According to the Orange County Register, a group of parents have been collecting signatures to take over Palm Lane Elementary School under the so-called “parent trigger law” or the Parent Empowerment Act.
But when Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, who was a co-sponsor on the law, sent a letter November 21 to the district attorney, his office outlined “allegations of intimidation of parents and advocates that Huff said could be law violations,” said the paper.
Michael Lubinski, a senior assistant district attorney, sent a letter to Jose Moreno, the school board president on November 24 asking him to address the accusations. The paper added that, Lubinski asked Moreno to inform his office of any improper conduct by parents or anyone else.
“Our intent in reaching out to you is to make sure all efforts have been made to ensure that members of the public and the school district comply with the procedures outlined in the Parent Empowerment Act,” states the letter as quoted in the Register. “The process must work without fear of harassment, threats or intimidation.”
According to the paper, Lubinski says he and office routinely send letters to government agencies when any complaint is made to carry out an investigation. However, Moreno and Superintendent Linda Wagner denied the allegations.
Wagner said in a statement that they “support the rights of the parents we serve to make a decision about the future education of their students.” Wagner wrote that, “While we cannot control the tactics or communication from either side in this matter, we can ensure that we provide the resources and information necessary for our parents to make the most informed decisions for their child’s future.”
Huff told the paper that the allegations he listed could possibly show that the district and its supporters are “illegally coordinating efforts to suppress parents’ rights.” The complaint names of district officials and members of the union of teachers letter.
The Register reported that one incident is alleged to have occurred when “Huff was invited by a parent group to discuss the parent trigger law at district headquarters.” The district did not allow the meeting, because, officials said that the group was larger than expected. It also involved political campaigning and the proper insurance was unavailable, said the paper.
Huff, according to the paper, had offered the insurance his office pays for, but the district said it did not cover the group. Huff went ahead and met with the parents in a parking lot, the paper added.
The senator also said that an Anaheim Union High School District employee told Palm Lane parents to not sign the petition for parents being circulated, added the Register.
Huff told the paper that, “There seemed to be a pattern of what we were hearing and what we were seeing.” Huff represents a lot of north Orange County, including a section of Anaheim. “It [is] hard to prove what’s going on, and I wanted to notify the district attorney about it.”
Moreno told the paper that the allegations are “fabrications.”
“It does [not] at all reflect the reality,” Moreno said. His term ends Monday, December 15th.
The parents from Palm Lane will have until the middle of January to turn in signatures to the district board, which must total more than fifty percent of the parents at the school. The Register added that, the parents may be facing a difficult challenge given that the goal of the petition is to get rid of staff including the principal, in order to turn the campus into a publicly-funded charter school.

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