Anaheim City School District Gives Union Names of Parents Who Signed Parent Trigger Petition

I’ve learned that the Anaheim City School District has given one of its school employee unions the names and contact information of the 332 parents and guaradians of Palm Lane Elementary School students who signed the Parent Trigger Law petition to re-start their school as an independent public charter school.

The local affiliate of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) – which represents non-teaching school employees – had filed a public records act request for this information. During the last few days, CSEA members have been showing up at the homes of parents who signed the petition to speak to them about it. It would be naive to think this is anything other that an attempt to confuse or intimidate these parents into recanting their support for the charter petition, which the Anaheim City School District Board of Education will take up at its Thursday, February 19 meeting, That night the Board will determine if the petition has enough valid signatures and meets the requirements of state law.

The ACSD’s decision to release this information to the union strikes me as suspect and of dubious legality. I know it is illegal to release the names of voters who sign ballot petitions. However, I don’t know if the same protections hold for signers of Parent Trigger Law petitions, although the same reasons exist for such protection.

Section 4801 of the California Code of  Regulations governing Parent Trigger Law petitions states:

Signature gatherers, students, school site staff, LEA staff, members of the community, and parents and legal guardians of eligible pupils shall be free from harassment, threats, and intimidation related to circulation of or signing a petition, and from being discouraged to sign or being encouraged to revoke their signature on a petition.[emphasis added].

A parent who was at yesterday’s union-sponsored “parent information meeting” in Palm Lane Park spoke with Guillermo Santucci, a senior labor relations representative from the CSEA’s Orange field office. According to this parent, Santucci enouraged her to sign a recission form to request removal of her name from the Palm Lane Parent Trigger petition. [NOTE: the court has ruled that once a Parent Trigger Law petition has been submitted, a signatory cannot remove his or her name.]

State law governing Parent Trigger Law petitions (Section 4802.1) only contemplates petition signers being contacted by the Local Education Agency (in this case, ACSD) and the lead petitioners, and only for the purposes of verifying eligible signatures:

In connection with the petition, the LEA may only contact parents or legal guardians to verify eligible signatures on the petition. The identified lead petitioners for the petition shall be consulted to assist in contacting parents or legal guardians when the LEA fails to reach a parent or legal guardian.

The Palm Lane petitioners themselves have been very cognizant of the confidentiality of signatories. At their January 15 press conference following submission of the signatures, everyone was instructed not to open or even touch the binder containing a copy of the petition.

Why would the CSEA want the names and contact information of parents who signed the Palm Lane Elementary Parent Trigger Law petition except to contact them about their decision to sign it? The Anaheim City School District knows (or ought to know) the applicable regulations and should have refused the CSEA’s request. It’s highly doubtful any the parents who signed the petition thought it would earn them a home visit from an employee of the district where their kids go to school, wanting to discuss their decision to support a charter school that the district and its employee unions have been fighting.

The district’s action will have a chilling effect. More than half of ACSD schools fall under the Parent Trigger Law. If parents at those school decide the organize and petition to convert their school to charter status under the Parent Trigger Law, how much more difficult will it be if parents know that the school staff who educate and watch their children can request a copy of the petition and see which parents have signed it? Look at it this way: how likely would any of us be to sign a ballot initiative petition if we knew a union activist or some other political type might show up at our doorstep wanting to further discuss the matter?

Keep in mind the public school unions have carefully instructed members on how to legally (they think) discourage parents from signing Parent Trigger Law petitions:

Directly telling parents to “not sign” is against the law, but it is okay to make statements such as: “If I were a parent at this school, I wouldn’t sign the petition.” or “If my child was at this school…”.

It’s my understanding the school district does not provide the public with the contact information of its parents. Except it apparently it does if a member of the public is seeking the names and contact info of parents who support a charter school proposal the school district and school unions oppose.

7 comments

  1. Tait is MIA for Palm lane

    So why has Tom Tait been silent as a mouse on all this? Or James Vanderbilt for that matter?

    When they endorsed him last year, his pals at the OC Register said Tait “has served as the sole voice on the City Council for those residents who had been left without a voice for many years, including the city’s large and growing Latino community.”

    Now some of those residents are organizing and trying to get a charter school going, while being harassed by the unions and the district every step of the way. And Tait is totally AWOL. Maybe if one of his buddies wanted to run Palm Lane, he would speak up like he did for the GOALS Academy.

    • @Tait is MIA for Palm Lane

      I believe it has to do with the fact that that most of the ACSD Board members are the puppets of the infamous “Jose F. Moreno”, and since the summer campaign before the election Tom Tait has extended his arm to Jose F. Moreno in assistance but has kept his distance to quote on quote not seem as “team” with an extreme left [Jose F. Moreno] in other words i guess he doesn’t want to upset his friend Moreno for going against his wishes. But do not fear Mayor Pro-Tem Lucille Kring has prepared a resolution which will be voted on at the next city council meeting February 24th to give the parents of Palm Lane moral support really. What will be interesting is if Mr. Tait and Mr. Vanderbilt [who he himself is a former is a former ACSD board member] will abstain from voting on the resolution.

  2. Intimidating by either side of this would be unacceptable. But someone explain to me how it can be legal to persuade someone to sign a petition but illegal to persuade them not to? If this is true, the parent trigger law is essentially foolproof for the pro-side Could this stand constitutional scrutiny? It would be interesting to get a legal expert to weigh in but I don’t see how this is possible.

    • The problem is trying to reason with unreasonable people. One would think if you can hear one side, you can and should hear the other; however, it is a lot easier to get people to sign if the opposition stays quiet.

      • Matthew Cunningham

        Who are the “unreasonable people,” Linda? I hope you’re not referring to the parents who led the petition drive, or the parents who signed it.

        The public school unions had every opportunity to hold their “informational meetings” while the signature gathering was going on. But they didn’t. Maybe union leaders thought these parents couldn’t pull it off.

        Now union apologists are complaining, in essence, that this parent group didn’t make the unions’ arguments for them while they were circulating the Parent Trigger petition! Absurd.

        Do you think it is appropriate for the union to demand the list of parents who signed the petition and then go to their homes about it? Do you think the school district should be releasing the parents contact information like that – notwithstanding that state law doesn’t permit them to? What’s to stop the CSEA from publishing the names of these parents in a newspaper ad asking readers to contact them with “the other side of the story”?

        • Hi Matthew, I think she was just answering my question about the law you posted above saying you can’t discourage someone from signing these petitions. Can you clarify this part of the law? You make a valid point about petitioners not arguing for the other side–but there’s a difference between arguing against yourself and the ethics of full disclosure of the implications/results of signing. Anyway I was more concerned about the part of the law that seems to preclude arguing against signing a petition. It would seem to me to be a free speech issue.

        • I’m absolutely talking about the people leading the petition. They have been at the gates of the school and standing across the street waiting to talk to parents…and boy everyone is told they have every right to do so. Fine. But when someone who opposes the petition attempts the EXACT same thing it is a major injustice. I’m just not sure what is missing in your rationale to think that is reasonable.

          Do you really mean to tell me that the Gloria Romero is only looking out for children here?? C’mon. Do you believe the moon is made of cheese? Funny how she took a lot of cash from the very union who is now the devil in all this. It really is quite fascinating to watch the cutthroat nature of Senator Huff as well. I wonder if he will cut the parents loose as quickly as he did that little aid who was doing his bidding.

          With regard to the union holding informational meetings, who cares? Are you really concerned about the timing?? It is irrelevant. The union has every right to hold a meeting, and I’ve not seen one piece of documentation that says parents HAVE to attend. If they don’t want to go, don’t go. It is called the freedom to choose. I suppose that also only applies to the parents who choose what you think they should?

          Here’s a real kick in the crotch…what if the people leading this charge are the ones who leaked the parent information?? I hope you;re not stupid enough to believe that politicians are above doing anything that dirty.

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