Washington Elementary Parents Union Chapter
District: Lynwood Unified
Enrollment: 871 students, 93% Latino, 7% African American, 87% low-income
API score: 752
Parents at Washington Elementary School in Lynwood, CA came together to form the first ever "Parents Union chapter" in June 2010, less than two months after Parent Revolution launched the chapter-based organizing model. Over the past six months, parents at Washington have gotten organized, engaged their community, identified issues of importance to their fellow parents, and taken action. Their latest efforts have been focused on cleaning up the abysmal and unsanitary conditions at their school using the legal leverage of the CA Supreme Court's Williams v California decision.
Several months ago, parents from the chapter attended a general informational meeting led by their principal to raise concerns with respect to the school's low academic performance and nutrition program. While waiting their turn to speak, the chapter leadership heard numerous parents complain about the school's unsanitary restrooms. The Union voted unanimously to place their nutrition initiative on hold to research the options available to them after the principal encouraged parents to "stop pointing fingers" and take on a proactive role. Parents formed a "Cleaning Committee," and researched Williams v. California and learned that all public schools are obligated to provide students with basic necessities such as books and a clean environment. The chapter accelerated their investigation when a distraught mother contacted the Union to share that her 8 year-old son had slipped in a puddle of urine inside the boy's bathroom.
In October 2011, four members from the parent union conducted a facilities inspection and discovered unsanitary restrooms, mouse droppings in the cafeteria, clogged water fountains, and blocked emergency exits, among other hazards. Parents tried to submit four Williams complaints with their school principal, but the complaints were rejected, forcing them to submit the complaints directly with the Lynwood Unified School District. When school personnel accused the parents of unlawfully entering the school and insisted that the complaints required an official report from a professional inspector, parents contacted the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the ACLU of Southern California to survey the validity of these claims. The ACLU reassured parents that their Williams complaint was procedurally unobjectionable and addressed their concerns. At the following parent meeting the school's administration publicly admitted that the restrooms and cafeteria were so deplorable that Williams complaints were necessary.
Muir High School
District: Pasadena Unified
Enrollment: 762 students, 66% Latino, 27% African-American, 82% low-income
API score: 650
Parents at John Muir HS in Pasadena, CA formed their Parents Union chapter in September 2011. Less than a month after forming, they decided to launch a campaign to improve what they identified as one of the biggest problems impeding academic performance - high truancy rates amongst students.
In response to this problem, the chapter worked with the school's leadership to launch the "Student Attendance Challenge," with the goal of increasing the school-wide attendance rate from 92% to 96%. Their campaign has encouraged parents to get more involved in improving attendance by raising awareness about the problem to other parents, organizing phone banks to call their fellow parents and encourage them to closely monitor their own child's attendance, and volunteer at the school on a regular basis.