Moms Become Vandals to Stop Charter School Takeover, Parents Say
It's a story headed straight for a future episode of The Jerry Springer Show. Allegedly.
Two Southern California moms, Lori Yuan and Chrissy Guzman, are accused of causing $8,000 or so in damage to their local elementary school after the campus broke away from its district under California's "parent trigger" law and went charter despite the duo's efforts to stop it.
See also: California's Parent Trigger.
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The duo recently pleaded not guilty to charges of vandalism. The San Bernardino County District Attorney's office told us the two allegedly did the damage to a classroom at Adelanto's Desert Trails Elementary School by using mustard and paint.
No bologna, mayo or juice boxes?
Yuan is the vice president and Guzman is the president of the local PTA.
A parents group alleges the damage happened June 26 after Yuan and Guzman lost a battle over other parents' successful attempts to use the parent-trigger to convert the school to charter status.
Proponents of the charter school say that the duo's actions were part of a nearly two-year effort by "rogue actors" to try to undo the charter reform.
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The charter folks allege that the anti-reformers, led by Yuan and Guzman, turned in fake signatures of parents who said they'd rescinded their support for the school. Enough rescinded endorsements were turned in to halt the charter conversion - if they were legit.
The pro-charter folks say the anti-reformers were allied with the Hesperia Teachers Association, the local educator's union which, like other school labor groups, is against the Parent Empowerment Act.
The act allows a vote of more than 50 percent of local parents to take a school from a district and turn it into a special charter. Local pro-charter parents say they got 70 percent.
Some local parents, including the Desert Trails Parents Union and the the nonprofit Parent Revolution, are now calling for a full-on investigation that would go beyond the vandalism case and probe possible fraud in the attempt to overturn the desert community's parent trigger.
They sent a letter, obtained by the Weekly, to the San Bernardino District Attorney asking for a probe. The D.A. had yet to respond, we were told.
The document claims that there has been ongoing vandalism at Desert Trails, with one incident coming as recently as Dec. 14. It also alleges a Mother's Day weekend act of vandalism at the school.
A representative for the parents who did not want to be named said:
These kids are trapped in terrible schools. Why people would vandalize a school for kids, I'm not prepared to answer that question. There's strong emotions.
Yuan's attorney, Philip C. Greenberg, told us he's going to ask for the case to be dropped. (Guzman was in the process of obtaining new counsel). Greenberg:
This is a case that is so overblown and out of perspective it is mind boggling that these two wonderful mothers, a PTA president and vice president, are facing these charges. This all has to do with the issue of a charter school, and it creates a lot of emotion on both sides of an issue. But for that these charges would have never been filed.
The moms are due back in court Feb. 10, a spokesman for the D.A. told us.