Parents have a right to be involved in their children’s education, especially during distance learning.
While we all know school and family partnerships have big impacts on student achievement, many of us, including educators, don’t know that parental involvement isn’t just a “best-practice” it is a right guaranteed by CA State Law.
Rights guaranteed by the California Department of Education supersede any resolutions we approve at the SFUSD Board of Education. Our board resolutions are not laws they are directives to our Superintendent and staff. Many family and community leaders don’t know that.
When I became a Commissioner I immediately began working with SFUSD staff to ensure all California Department of Education Laws are listed on our district website, so families can read them in multple languages. View them here.
Rights, Resolutions… What’s the difference?
While board resolutions are important ways commissioners communicate our values and priorities as a body (there are seven total), district staff are not required to implement them by state or federal law. Neither are they enforceable by the law.
Alternatively, education laws are not up for negotiation with families, labor, or other educational partners. State laws supersede district policies and as a result, if no district policy or district practice we adopt can violate state laws, and schools or districts that fail to comply with the laws can face serious consequences.
An example of a California State Education Law is one stating schools cannot require fees for essential school activities.
Several years ago when my girls entered middle school they came home requesting money to purchase gym uniforms. I quickly informed the principal that this was in violation of state education laws and was ignored (!) so I elevated my concerns to district leadership.
Within days, all schools in the district received a legal memo directing them to discontinue the practice of charging for school uniforms, graduation gowns, field trips costs, and other similar expenses and to immediately reimburse families. A district as large as ours rarely takes such swift action.
This experience demonstrated the power of law in the fight for education equity. When parents know their rights they have the power of the state or federal government behind them. It also taught me we can’t be complacent and assume our schools are always functioning in the best interest of our most vulnerable students. We must always be vigilant to ensure hard-won rights are not overlooked.
Folks interested in learning more about the law guaranteeing families are not required to pay educational fees, can find more information and links here.
This is why parents play such a powerful role in ensuring educational equity. Involved families not only support individual student achievement—we function as advocates for all our kids.
It is because of parents working in partnership with advocacy organizations like the NAACP that we have laws protecting the rights of our children. I am grateful to family and community leaders who went before me to guarantee access and accountability in our education system.
We wouldn’t be where we are without those who have gone before us. Shoutout to @HomiesEmpower for their Ethnic Studies Storytime series #LatinxHeritageMonth and specifically the HECHOS Ethnic Studies Story Time and Lesson-Mendez v Westminster
Mendez v. Westminster, and Mamie Tape v. Hurley (who fought for integration for Chinese-American students.) are local examples of Brown v. Board of Education, in which families of color used the power of our courts to ensure educational access to public education for their children.
Learn more about Mamie Tape who was fighting to attend SFUSD’s own Spring Valley Elementary School:
We cannot rest (sorry.)
Despite these amazing victories from the past, there is always more work ahead. Our advocacy today is an important way we demonstrate gratitude for the tireless work of our ancestors.
As we are seeing with the current administration, we cannot be complacent. Our work is never done. As Representatives John Lewis would remind us, there is always #GoodTrouble to get into.
Before him, Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Antiracism, allyship, social justice are not states of being, they require action.