LAUSD Must Tell Parents About Lead in Water

Key Developments:

·   Speak UP called for district transparency about lead in water and other health and safety issues.

·   The LAUSD Board passed a resolution to waive the fee it charges parent volunteers for fingerprinting. 

·   The LAUSD Board passed a resolution from Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) to explore using LAUSD properties to house homeless students and their families.

·   Local District West elementary schools show the worst math growth in LA schools, and huge racial gaps in growth persist, according to data presented by CORE Data Collaborative.

·   UTLA rejected well-respected candidates to chair fact-finding panel and continues to deny facts of financial crisis.

Summary:

 Speak UP’s Daphne Radfar asks LAUSD to be more transparent with parents

Speak UP’s Daphne Radfar asks LAUSD to be more transparent with parents

Speak UP Director of Operations Daphne Radfar criticized LAUSD’s failure to inform parents when water at their kids’ schools have high lead levels and called on the district to be more transparent with parents about health and safety issues.

Nearly a quarter of Los Angeles Unified’s water outlets tested above five parts per billion, according to a recent report in EdSource, and some schools tested much higher, including Miramonte Elementary, Audobon Middle School, and Los Angeles High, where Michelle King’s Girls Academic Leadership Academy is located.

Lead can permanently damage developing brains and lead to both learning and behavior issues in kids. It may even contribute to low student achievement at LAUSD schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics says there is no safe level of lead exposure for children, and is urging legal levels be lowered to one part per billion. 

“This is a really serious health issue, and yet LAUSD has done nothing to proactively inform parents at the schools where the water can permanently damage kids’ brains,” Radfar told the Board at public comment. “This is simply unacceptable.” 

It may also be illegal. While LAUSD claims that it’s complying with the law because there’s an obscure website where parents can look up the lead levels, the website is not easy for parents to find, navigate or interpret. It’s “absurd” to claim that this qualifies as informing parents, said Radfar, who pointed out that schools send flyers home in backpacks or make Robocalls when they truly want to communicate important information.

“Parents who are informed can send their kids to school with a water bottle and warn them away from the water fountains. Every morning when I send my [6 year old] son to school, I say to him, ‘Have a great day at school. Make sure you’re paying attention and do not drink from the drinking fountain.’”

This isn’t the first time LAUSD has gotten into hot water for its lack of transparency with parents. LAUSD last week apologized to parents for failing to disclose that a man with an arsenal of weapons was arrested attempting to lure students off campus at Walter Reed Middle School in Studio City. Parents at Carthay Elementary last year were furious when the school failed to inform parents about an employee who stripped naked and chased kids around campus.  

LAUSD loses the trust of parents every time it fails to inform them about safety issues at schools and must do a better job if it truly wants to partner with parents to put kids first.

Also at the meeting:

·   The Board passed a resolution from Board members Kelly Gonez (BD6), Monica Garcia (BD2) and Nick Melvoin (BD4) to explore using LAUSD properties to help shelter homeless students and their families. Some parents testified that they were afraid this would lead to increased crime around the schools. Board Member George McKenna (BD1) abstained from the vote after expressing skepticism about costs and unintended consequences, while Board member Richard Vladovic (BD7) voted no. Superintendent Austin Beutner urged the Board to remember that their primary job is to educate kids and suggested starting a pilot with one school, Telfair elementary in Pacoima, which has a large homeless student population. Beutner will report back to the Board in six months before taking any action.  

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·   Local District West elementary schools are showing the worst growth in math scores in the district, with 41 percent of LD West elementary schools showing below average growth, according to representatives from the CORE Data Collaborative, which examines student growth data in California school districts. There are also huge racial gaps in student growth. Asian and white students in poverty are outperforming African American students who are not in poverty, although the gap is narrowing. African American students in poverty, however, continue to lag behind and are not showing enough growth to close the gap.

·   UTLA’s unwillingness to accept the facts of LAUSD’s finances continues. UTLA-backed Board members McKenna and Scott Schmerelson (BD3) questioned LAUSD’s decision to contract with an independent financial firm, Houlihan Lokey, to examine district finances and its ability to maintain a “fiscally viable budget.” UTLA, as part of its contract negotiations, has challenged the notion that LAUSD is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. So LAUSD reached out to an independent source to confirm the facts.

·   Also on Thursday, LAUSD disclosed that UTLA had rejected all three of the highly qualified candidates that LAUSD has suggested to be a neutral arbiter on the fact-finding panel to examine its labor impasse: Miguel Santana, the former City Administrative Officer for the City of Los Angeles; Peter Taylor, former CFO for the University of California system; and Megan Reilly, chief business officer for the Santa Clara County Office of Education.