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.