Education and Children’s Rights

In Wells v. One2One Learning Foundation (2006) 39 Cal 4th 1164, the California Supreme Court authorized proceedings as private attorneys general to curb sham practices by charter schools engaged in “distant learning” for home-educated children throughout the state. Wells settled in 2010.  Another such matter involving children not receiving education programs and resources, to which they were legally entitled, settled for far more. In 2012, Martin v. [defendant is confidential], Sacramento Superior Court. The Martin plaintiffs also sued under the California False Claims Act, charging the non-public school operator with fraud and unfair business practices, including falsifying records to charge for students not present, understaffing its classrooms, employing uncertified teachers and evading state oversight efforts designed to prevent such abuses. Our firm has also successfully prosecuted several consumer class actions on behalf of disappointed students enrolled in private vocational or post-secondary institutions.

In Adam G. v. Heald, N.D. Ca. No. CV 11-01490, we recovered damages in 2011 and 2012 against school officials and police for denying educational services and for using pepper spray to control a seven year old emotionally disturbed first grader. At around the same time, we also settled a lawsuit in federal court involving the school district’s mishandling of a 16 year old female high school student’s sexual harassment complaint against her school counselor, Lilah R. v. Smith, N.D. Ca., Case No. CV 11-1860 MEJ.

In 2005 we achieved a substantial settlement, including damages, attorneys’ fees, and prospective relief in Laurie Q. v. Contra Costa County 304 F. Supp. 2d 1185 (2004), for a class of disabled foster care children who were denied access to appropriate educational and health services. In Newton v. County of Napa (1990) 217 Cal. App.3d 1551, we protected the rights of children and their parents from abusive practices by the County’s Child Protective Service. In 1999, we won a federal ruling vindicating the right of the Associated Students to use the mandatory student fee for lobbying on issues affecting their education. ASUCR v. Regents of the University of California (N.D. CA 1999) WL 13711.

More than 40 years ago, Michael Sorgen was the originating attorney in Larry P. v. Riles, 502 F.2d 963 (9th Cir. 1974), affirming a statewide injunction against the use of I.Q. tests for placing African-American children in classes for the mentally retarded and awarding attorneys’ fees. Other precedent setting cases early in his career include: Charles S. v. Board of Education, 20 Cal.App.3d 83 (1971) and Wong v. Hayakawa, 464 F.2d 1282 (9th Cir. 1972) established due process for students in school disciplinary proceedings; in T.N.G. v. Superior Court (1970) 4 Cal.3d 767, the California Supreme Court vindicated the rights of minors to have their juvenile court records sealed; and In Re William M. (1970) 3 Cal.3d 16, granted a right to pretrial release in lieu of bail.