A group of 10 high school students and their parents filed a lawsuit Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court challenging the controversial exit exam nearly all California public high school students must pass to receive a diploma, on the grounds that it adds an unfair hurdle to graduation.
The case, filed against the state Board of Education and the state superintendent of public instruction, seeks an injunction to immediately suspend the consequences of the mandatory exam. If successful, it would clear the way for tens of thousands of students who have not yet passed the test to graduate this year.
“For the very first time we are telling kids they do not get a diploma unless they pass an exit exam,” said San Francisco attorney Arturo J. Gonzalez at a press conference. “We think that is unfair, we think it’s unwise and we think it is illegal.”
The study predicted that 50,000 students statewide would fail to graduate. That number, however, included disabled students who were exempted from the test last month.
Late last month, Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that 6,000 seniors still had not cleared the hurdle.
“Basically this test stands for, ‘Go to school for four years, work hard, stay out of trouble, get passing grades, but, by the way, if you don’t pass, all your efforts stood for nothing,’ “ said Nora Sellman, whose son Alex has repeatedly failed the math portion of the exam. “It would be criminal.”
Gonzalez said he hopes to convince a judge that poor, minority students who are English learners are especially harmed by the test because they have not been properly prepared or given alternatives to the exam.
The argument stems from his firm’s involvement in a landmark class-action case in which the state was accused of denying poor children adequate school resources. As part of a settlement in 2004, the state agreed to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into teacher training, textbooks and facilities improvements.