Group seeks restraining order to stop Doyle Park school closure

  • 3/15/2012: A1:
    PC: The Santa Rosa City council chambers overflowed with parents and students concerned about the closing of Doyle Park Elementary School and the location of a new French immersion charter school.

The civil rights group that sued Santa Rosa City Schools officials over the closure of Doyle Park Elementary School is to appear before a judge today to seek a temporary restraining order to halt closure efforts.

Attorneys for the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area claim that the decision to close Doyle Park and replace it with a French-American charter school was illegal and discriminates against the school's predominantly Latino students.

Bob Henry, the school district legal counsel, said that he had been served with legal notice of the restraining order request and that he'll be in court today at 3:30 p.m. to oppose it. He said the matter will be heard before Superior Court Judge Mark Tansil.

A suit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court on behalf of a group of teachers, parents, students and community members, ultimately seeks to reverse the school board's March 15 vote to close the school.

It alleges the board acted improperly because a school board member had a conflict of interest, that the March 15 vote violated the state's open meetings law and that the process violated state law governing conversion of public schools to charter schools.

School board members have said they acted appropriately and did not violate conflict-of-interest or open-meetings rules.

Also, Henry said the rules for converting a public school into a charter school do not apply to the Doyle Park closure. Doyle Park was closed before its campus was designated as the location of the French charter school, he said. A conversion involves keeping the same teachers, students and support staff, he said.

On Thursday, the Santa Rosa school board met in closed session to discuss the suit. After the meeting, board President Larry Haenel said the school board had authorized its legal counsel to "respond to the complaint by way of opposing the remedy sought by the petitioners."

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.

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