Alameda County Office of Education inspections conducted in the spring, found that “dozens of OUSD schools have dangerous and unhealthy conditions,” according to a letter civil rights lawyers mailed to Oakland Unified officials last week.
An OUSD spokesman said they don’t have a complete copy of the letter, but the 11 out of 29 pages he faxed over to me reveal that the ACLU of Southern California, Public Advocates Inc., and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights uncovered some dirt. Literally.
For example, at Life Academy, a high school with nearly 300 students on International Boulevard, the inspectors discovered a “filthy” staff restroom, an unflushable toilet on the fourth floor girl’s restroom, and a rodent infestation. You can almost hear the inspector gagging as he or she writes, “site conditions appear that the facility and restrooms are not maintained or cleaned on a consistent basis…”
There were more rats. Students at Oakland Technical High School should know that the inspectors discovered a rodent infestation in the cafeteria and kitchen. Roosevelt Middle School also suffers from a plague of rodents.
The lawyers who wrote to Vince Matthews, OUSD’s new state administrator, are co-counsel for the plaintiffs in Williams v. California, a lawsuit which claimed that state agencies failed to provide “public school students with equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities, and qualified teachers.”
In 2004, the case was settled with extra state money earmarked for some schools. But as the lawyers write, there has been a continuing lack of compliance on the part of OUSD. Just ask the students in the nine classrooms at Santa Fe Elementary who had no heat last winter. Or the students at Skyline High School, who go to a school where 60 percent of the lights are dead.
If I can get an electronic copy of the whole 29-page letter, I’ll post it here.
Update: Here’s the whole letter: Civil Rights Letter