[UPDATE 6:03 p.m.: Response From Attorney for Redwood Prep Charter School] Some Local Charter Schools Exclude Students Illegally, Says ACLU

 By Jeff Billings [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Student working. [Photo by Jeff Billings via Wikimedia Commons]

Do our local charter schools exclude students for illegal reasons? The ACLU says yes.

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union shows several Humboldt County and Mendocino County charter schools using illegal practices that exclude some types of disadvantaged children. The ACLU argues that the schools discourage low income or families of different ethnicities by requiring volunteer time that families working multiple jobs might have difficulty filling, essays that second language school students might struggle to write, or other similar practices.

California law requires that charter schools provide equal opportunities for every child to attend their schools. However, according to the new study, polices listed on these schools websites are in “direct violation of the public trust and the 1992 state law that created charter schools…[and] these are only the violations that schools posted online; many other schools may maintain similar prohibited policies or practices that are hidden from the public view.”

The ACLU argues that some requirements by charter schools can “skim the cream” from traditional public schools–allowing the charter schools to grab students that have high academic potential and weed out those without much parental support.

Local schools that the ACLU says are in violation in Humboldt include:

  • Coastal Grove Charter School
  • Redwood Coast Montessori
  • Redwood Prep Charter School
  • Trillium Charter School

Mendocino charter schools the ACLU says are in violation include:

  • La Vida Charter School
  • Redwood Academy of Ukiah
  • River Oak Charter
  • Tree of Life Charter

According to the ACLU,

Like any other public school, by law, charters may not discourage or prevent students from enrolling based on income, national origin, academic performance, parent involvement, immigration status, language proficiency, or any other factor. If they have more applicants than spaces, they may choose students only through a fair, unbiased lottery or, in some limited circumstances, by the neighborhood where the student lives.

The California legislature put these rules into place because a free, quality, public education is a moral and legal guarantee. When charter operators create policies that discourage or deny enrollment, they betray not only particular students but also all Californians who are invested in the future of our state.

A full list of schools the ACLU says are in violation is available here.

UPDATE 6:03 p.m.: Letter from an attorney and Board member of Redwood Prep Charter School in response to the accusation by the ACLU and to this article:

To Whom It May Concern,
On August 22, 2016, you published an article on your website entitled “Some Local Charter Schools Exclude Students Illegally, Says ACLU”. This letter is meant to clarify what has happened with respect to Redwood Prep Charter School “RPCS” since receiving notice of this complaint from the ACLU.

RPCS was made aware of the recent ACLU report alleging RPCS has enrollment and admissions practices the ACLU believes to be discriminatory on August 1,2016. Generally, the ACLU is claiming that RPCS has discriminatory Parent/Guardian Volunteer Requirements and discriminatory Requirements that Discourage Undocumented Students.

The claim that RPCS has discriminatory practices is something the school has taken very seriously. Immediately after receiving the notice from the ACLU, RPCS contacted the ACLU directly to seek clarification and determine what RPCS policies were discriminatory.

In response to the director’s inquiry, here is what the ACLU Staff Attorney had to say:

Thank you for your inquiry regarding Redwood Preparatory’ s enrollment violations. We found two violations, namely that the school requires 1) students to provide a birth certificate without any alternatives for proving their age (http://www.redwoodprep.org/#!enrollment/cl ylq); and 2) parents are required to volunteer 30 hours per year.
(https://media.wix.com/ugd/9bd139 81452eac0757493a8c50baf2d2b22936.pdf).

Regarding the birth certificate requirement, The U.S. Department of Education suggests offering the following options to parents and students: “a religious, hospital, or physician’s certificate showing date of birth; an entry in a family bible; an adoption record; an affidavit from a parent/guardian; a birth certificate; previously verified school records; or any other documents permitted by law.” http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa- 201405.pdf.

Would Redwood Prep be amenable to providing a list of options and/or to making clear that the school is open to all immigrant students and students who are not U.S. citizens? Regarding the volunteer hours requirement, we understand that having parents volunteer is important both for families and the school, but we just want school to make it clear that volunteering is encouraged but not mandatory. Such policies may discourage certain children, particularly those who are foster youth, homeless, or those whose parents work several jobs, from attending. We suggest using the word “encouraged” and making it clear that parents/guardians are not required to volunteer, so as not to inadvertently exclude students whose parents/guardians are not able to volunteer at the rate you would like, if at all.

Thank you again for your inquiry, and please be in touch with any ongoing questions or concerns. If you are amenable to amending Redwood Prep’s enrollment language, please let us know and we will consider removing your school from our list.

Upon reviewing these specific issues with the RPCS legal team, RPCS believes that even without making any changes to their policies, RPCS does not have discriminatory policies. However, because RPCS would rather err on the side of inclusion, RPCS will be making these minor proposed changes.

Feel free to contact the school at the number above if you have any questions or concerns.

Carlton Floyd,
RPCS Board Member


Hat tip to an article in the Los Angeles Times which brought the situation to our attention.



  • The ACLU looking out for their special interest.

    • What’s their special interest? Is it equality?

      • Is this the same ACLU that promotes same sex showers and dressing room in public schools ? Who runs this system but feminized males that cow tow to the wishes of the liberal elite expecting everyone to bow down to their gods of carnal desires while hiding under the so called law of protecting the citizens.

    • Henchman Of Justice

      Carlton floyd is not to be trusted. Personal experience – Carlton is a near newbie attorney who has to have his daddy clean up his messes.

      Carlton is a quitter when he knows he has not done his job.

      No need to change anything, but Carlton, fearful that he is wrong even though he says otherwise, will take a cool $10,000.00 retainer to change a couple words for reasons not justified other than “acting faux polite”.

      Liars R attorneys.

    • Henchman Of Justice

      ACLU = Local face pullers looking for public relations for the faux appearance of being effective and honorable.

      Local liars and bullshitters make up substantial positions on the ACLU and school boards, bank boards, gubbamint commissions and committees, etc…

      Yes, education is a pawn and a political representation tool for system insiders and their minions.

      Who else knows of much worse stuff going on in the community that has nothing direct to “children?” In Humboldt, children or public safety is the only political tool that garners the money manipulators’ involvement.

      By design, nearly every humboldt political argument centers around children and public safety, as if the Zika virus creates drone borgs all in synchronicity.

  • ACLU looking out for welfare of everyone. Thank you ACLU

  • No one says you have to send your child to a charter school. If the parents can’t participate, send your kid to a traditional public school.

  • A charter school is supposed to provide the same, equal circumstances. It’s always fascinating to watch the bigots come out in force to defend illegal practices against people who have different color skin or who are disadvantaged. Saying the ACLU is a “special interest” is a classic example of the thinly disguised bigotry people will hurl. Civil rights are constitutional rights. Are you all against the Constitution? Or do you prefer to cherry pick your constitutional amendments? This quote also comes from a bigot: “No one says you have to send your child to a charter school. If the parents can’t participate, send your kid to a traditional public school.” Actually someone does say you have to send your kids to school–it’s the law. And the law says your ability to go to a charter school is equal. Does not come with extra parent hours–as if raising your kids doesn’t require enough time while often holding down a job or two. The ACLU is here as an underpaid, non-profit legal organization to defend our Civil Liberties. American Civil Liberties Union. Get it? Or is the only civil liberty you want to defend the 2nd Amendment, which I also agree with (but don’t put on a pedestal above the others).

    • Seems under your scenario the ACLU has great cases against institutions such as UC Berkeley, Harvard, Wharton, etc. They are just skimming the cream of the crop.

      Unfair because they are required to write an essay?

      Unfair because some parental participation/volunteering is required?

      We are doomed.

      • Bull. My daughter’s grades got her guaranteed admission to the UC System, and much other $ help. She chose a different school, but UC was an open option, and offered. af

      • Henchman Of Justice

        Ya, cuz parents are disabled, in a wheel chair, and the school won’t offer an ADA inclusive set of practices and procedures to ensure equal opportunity to disabled volunteers off campus or on campus, does it really matter.

        Equality – Americans have been brainwashed to believe in a life existence of unequal everything that somehow, in America, everything in life is equalized.

        Fucking laughing thy ass off at all the believers in a disbelieving political system of special interest everywhere.

        The ACLU is a special interest folks, not an agency of gubbamint.

        Get a fucking clue folks!

    • “The Law prevents the Rich, as well as the Poor, from sleeping under bridges and stealing bread.”
      Voltaire? This is the problem Lizzie is having…. I don’t know about Who. af

      • It’s Anatole France:

        The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

    • Oh look at you. Right out of the gate with accusations of bigotry, racism and whatever degrading term du jour you can think of. And 2nd Amendment claims just for added salt. Methinks you don’t know what you’re talking about. Or have kids in schools. Why is the ACLU targeting charter schools and not public ones? Are they going after the low hanging fruit because they know the CA teachers union would bury them in a legal battle?

      • Henchman Of Justice

        Ah, but when the school board has a money laundering deceitful newbie attorney seeking a future career of dirty money,

        then who knows about what and how many back door conversations between attorney and ACLU preceeded what is now in writing???

        Humboldt is so messed up for jobs, special interests feel it too, so they make up work as they go in the form this charter school “story” elicits.

    • Thanks for using my quote. I found it to be quite poignant, as well.

      Part of a charter school’s “charm” is the parental involvement. If you want that for your child, get involved. Anyone can find the time to meet the volunteer hours. There are a myriad of ways to earn the hours. The parents would rather kvetch about it and get the ACLU involved.

      And by the way, I’m not a bigot. There’s no discrimination here.

      • Requiring Parent Participation Is Against The Law .What don’t you get about that .It’s our tax dollars paying for theses charter schools

    • When I was schooling my daughter, the law read that I had to prove I was providing an education equal to the one offered through the public schools. Not real hard to prove that, at any point. That particular year, US polling of HS grads showed 50% could not find the United States on a world map. af

    • Such B.S.calling me a bigot it’s a waste of time you don’t know me at all shows your ignorance.

    • The ACLU gave us Citizen’s United.

      ‘splain that one.

    • Henchman Of Justice

      Ah, is education a constitutional right when it is private education?


      Same reason why blogs are allowed to censor.

  • Before choosing to home school, I checked out almost every charter and otherwise private school within a 1 hour drive. What struck me was the affluence. Parking lots full of BMW’s, wall-to-wall Birkenstocks. No connection to the world as it is, and those who inhabit it with us. Every administrator and student with whom we spoke was condescending and eager for our money. None understood that my daughter and I were interviewing them as OUR employees, not the other way around. af

    • I doubt you did. I have friends with special needs kids that go to different local charter schools. Not a one of them own BMWs. Or even new cars. Hell, some don’t even have cars. but their kids get so bullied in the public schools because the district as a whole is so lax to do anything about it without an attorney present they have to go to charter schools. No, the affluent kids go to St Bernards and Academy of the Redwoods. I seriously doubt that every administrator was condescending, rather I think that’s your own disdain for them that’s clouding your beliefs. But then, just keep your kids in public school. Oh wait…you home school. I hope you can teach college prep courses or your kid is never going to make it past high school.

      • She won full-boat scholarships to the schools of her choice, including the UC System. She graduated Cum Laud. She returned to Potter Valley and taught there for 3 years to “give back” to her community. Now she teaches Teachers to teach and designs curriculums for both public and private school systems. And your point? af

      • For your information, Charter Schools are PUBLIC SCHOOLS!! They are funded by the same tax dollars. They are covered by the same federal laws of equal access. They were set up to provide a “different” model of education, not an “exclusive” model. If you don’t like equal access in your publicly funded charter school you can always send your kids to private school.

        • Henchman Of Justice

          Different is not exactly equal opportunity.

          Encouragement versus equal parental involvement……ya, charter school officials KNOW income levels and number of jobs has a direct effect on enrollment requirements.

          How does one require an encouragement?

    • What’s wrong with BMWs and Birkenstocks?

    • Apparently you are mistaken. I’ve see plenty of economically struggling families when I’ve visited charter sites.

    • Henchman Of Justice

      Because there exists cliques like high school, gubbamint is the culmination of people who have mastered “cliqueing”.

      Parents decide if other families are worthy, and thus decide on a school.

  • If parent participation is required it should be followed through by everyone. This is Ridiculous. So if a school,requires a uniform someone can say they can’t afford it and they won’t be required to get a uniform?

    • The schools with uniform requirements (that I know of) have contingency plans for these families. Those schools use uniforms to prevent students breaking down into cliques based on financial class. af

    • Henchman Of Justice

      Or, religious reasons like a burka.

      The country we live in will not change. We live in a set up, a scam society, where words on paper mean jack shit, and the people who are supplanted to protect and to serve are social treasonists.

      Forget about it, life goes on, America will continue to backstab on its traditional values in the name of global diversity.

  • The Schools snot discriminating. They can’t run if they can’t pay their bills. ACLU wants to make it impossible for kids to get an education unless parents pick up the added costs. Welcome to the equality for all brought to you by the ACLU and it comes without a decent solution to the problem. They do it so they can control what are students are taught and how they are taught. The very reason Charter schools opened because people were tired of their kids learning shit they should be taught at home. Screw the ACLU and every one of it’s low life form lawyers who have never worked a day in their lives. Figures Lie and Liars figure

    • It is the government of the USA which places education at the bottom of our national priorities, not the ACLU. Poorly educated people are much more easily controlled. Think about it, Sterling Example. af

  • The gentrification of the education system.

    Get your kid on the list is what they tell me. My kid is 6 months old! Charter school folks remind me of people that have been healed by ayausca. They are just so much more enlightened then everybody else.

  • Bottom line ACLU gearing up for a lawsuit, or should I say money. Just like most , ready to sue , SHOW ME THE MONEY. Every settlement awarded to anyone should be published in local paper , stand proud when you sue someone.

    • Just like Trump!

    • Henchman Of Justice

      No different than a school board member who is also a deceitful attorney as a board member.

      Ya, bet the conspiracy to get paid was between the ACLU and Carlron Floyd.

      Remember who represents mediaized slumlord Floyd Squires…….Carlton and Brad Floyd at Floyd Law Firm. It is all about money first, then concoct a mechanism to avoid going to court at a later date…pffft.

  • Your children should come first,no matter what!You need to make.the time and effort to do what it takes for your child to have that education.move your time around,use the grandparents it gets them involved and helps you out.I don’t like excuses!make time.

    • I agree. Also, it’s not like they ask a lot of time. If you’re a parent, I don’t care how busy or tired you are. You will find a way. Frequently you can get hours by chaperoning field trips and such. This gives the parents a chance to be with their child as well. Why have kids if you don’t have the time?

  • This is coming from a mother who is currently trying to get my child into Redwood Prep…There are parents out there who are working several jobs or have so much going on they really CANNOT volunteer (not talking about myself). Their children deserve the same opportunities as mine or any other child. That being said, you can’t make everyone happy. Even if the schools open it up and are more lenient, someone somewhere is still going to be pissed about something. I’m just thankful for the wonderful teaches at all the schools out there. My mom is a teacher (at a local public school), and for all the good ones out there, YOU ARE SAINTS! <3

  • I agree about the part of parental involvement being a condition of enrollment bars some folks who cannot physically volunteer on site. It’s a constrictive policy.

    However, the part about essays is confusing. All kids struggle to write essays. I don’t see why second-language kids get off the hook, the idea is to catch up, isn’t it? Maybe they are separated from other kids, but then that would be discrimination. Should schools lower their standards because some kids don’t speak/write English as a first language?

  • My child and two others were excluded from Six Rivers Charter HS because they had special needs. Yes, it’s true. They were treated differently and singled out by the principal for extra scrutiny and discipline, creating an intolerable atmosphere that forced them out. They advertise “alternative learning” that is all inclusive, but in truth they are only interested with improving the school’s test scores. Same with Jacoby Creek.

  • Here us why the ACLU is after Redwood Prep (as an example):

    Redwood Prep is 80% white; the Fortuna Elementary Schools are 54% white
    Redwood Prep 17% Hispanic with 0 English Learners, Fortuna Elem. Schools 35% Hispanic with 60% of them English Learners
    Redwood Prep Socio-Economically Disadvantaged 28%; Fortuna Elementary Schools 68%

    Charter Schools are supposed to mirror the demographics of regular public schools. The only way for this kind of disparity in the numbers is if the Charter School is “cherry picking” their students. English Learners and Disadvantaged Students are EXPENSIVE, eliminating them from your enrollment = way more $$ for students who don’t have special needs.

    These numbers are from the CDE website – I converted the enrollment numbers to percentages and rounded them to no decimal places.

    • You can’t definitively state the only way is due to cherry picking. There may also be a strong possibility that parents of children in those demographics are just not choosing charter schools for their children.

      • Wow, flash back to the 50’s and segregation in schools… exactly the same argument was used.

        I’m pointing out the reason ACLU is looking in these charter schools. I’m sure they did the same thing I did to begin with – what are the demographics of the charter school compared to the demographics of the public school. That gave them a list of charter schools that needed to be looked at. Then they looked at what could be the reason for the HUGE difference in demographics and the schools that appeared to set up barriers for the demographics that are being excluded are the schools that are being targeted. As I stated there is a financial reason for excluding these populations.

        • Hi Frequent Reader,

          While the demographics you present comparing Redwood Prep with Fortuna Elem. are on the surface concerning, there is much more nuance and investigation that needs to occur before calling this segregation and comparing it to the 1950s. That’s a very big claim.

          I want to learn more about the ACLU and the level of investigation they followed. From the above piece by Kym Kemp it seems that the ACLU simply perused some school webpages looking for language that could represent something unequal or discriminatory. But I look forward to perhaps learning more.

          Charter schools in Humboldt County from my perspective have been a positive addition to local education and the schools called out by the ACLU are fantastic schools with great educators running them.

          While I am concerned about charter schools in urban centers that often receive huge endowments and private monies that are starting to mesh the public/private arena in dangerous ways, we do not see that in Humboldt County. Each of our local charter schools was founded based on a need or interest arising from within our local community be it a desire for a college prep school or a Montessori school or something else.

          By and large we have incredible teachers and administrators in Humboldt County be it traditional or charter schools. I’d love to see more dialogue and a spirit of working together locally instead of division and calling schools out for this or that.

          Ultimately, the real problems in education stem from an inflated state bureaucracy and increasingly invasive state mandated standards and a billion dollar testing regimen that inaccurately assesses student and subsequently school performance. This negatively affects traditional and charter schools and is a root problem to solve together.

          In the end I’m not saying charter schools are all great and everything is fine in regards to their relationship with traditional schools and how all this plays out. I am saying we need to focus energies on larger systemic issues that get in the way of schools and teachers providing a useful, relevant and enlightening 21st century education for STUDENTS.

          I appreciate the discussion.

  • The ‘lotteries’ at some of these places are as much of an issue as volunteer hours. They are not ‘fair and unbiased.’

  • We started donating our time when our kids went to pre-school.it was one of the best times with my children,all thru school.even in my sickness I was involved.i just made the time both of us worked full time.today it’s hard but being a parent isn’t easy.our children really are the future and must keep learning till you can’t.im old but I’m still learning everyday thanks to my teachers.i know lots of wonderful teachers THANK YOU

  • Kym – I would like to know more.

    Are the accusations made against our local charter schools from the local branch of the ACLU? State branch?

    Also, it appears from the quoted statement that the ACLU is making these accusations based solely on information posted on these school’s webpages, is that correct? If so, who (local branch or state branch) spent the time combing the webpages to find this information? Did they investigate further before posting this press release?


  • Thank you Kym the links were super helpful.

    I think it should be noted that in 3 of the 4 Humboldt schools mentioned in the report the violation according to the ACLU was in regards to illegal parent volunteer requirements and 2 of 4 schools have are reported to have a violation in regards to discouraging undocumented students from attending. None of our schools are reported to have violations stemming from using essays or interviews as entrance requirements to the school.

    The parent volunteer requirements of local charter schools stems from the fact that these are schools with a community based vision. The mission of these schools is to encourage and support community schooling by including parents in the loop. In my opinion this enhances the educational program of a school when parents are involved in meaningful and helpful ways.

    I think what happens in the evolution of these kinds of schools is that naturally some parents commit more time to volunteering than others be it because they have more time or they have a higher inclination to volunteer. Concerns rise up within the school community about this inequality (the ones who volunteer a lot wanting other parents to step up more) and therefore school’s adopt volunteer hour requirements. I agree that such requirements are not fair to low income families who simply do not have the time to volunteer no matter how much they want to because they are working a lot to get by. But then you have the family who says they don’t have time but are in Hawaii twice a year. It’s murky territory. If the ACLU report sheds light on all of this, ok. These schools mentioned are already well aware of this debate and will continue to figure out the best way forward.

  • Coming from the perspective of a Redwood Prep Parent, one child who has graduated from RPCS and one child who still attends:

    Our children were not happy with the schooling they received at their initial school of choice. We decided to pull them and put them into a charter school. I home schooled one of them for a year and a half while waiting for their name to get drawn on the lottery before they were accepted at Redwood Prep.

    Upon acceptance, we were given a ton of information, an open door policy if we had questions or concerns, an ear available if we had any ideas about the school’s activities. We were encouraged to attend activities, board meetings, etc., and to volunteer whenever we could. We were then told if we couldn’t attend any of these things that the information could be sent to us however would be easiest. They also made it clear that we would never be required to help, but they loved to see parents feel like their opinions were valued and taken into consideration.

    We are a low-income household. We cannot always volunteer. We pick one or two field trips a year to go on cause that’s all we can do. Our teachers are only a phone call or email away, they genuinely want to help the students, my children are happy and I’ve never felt that we have experienced any discrimination before or during our RPCS schooling.

    I feel that any time a school is outside the norm, it opens itself up to criticism. Whether your children are in private, public, charter, religious or home schooling, I am simply thankful that we have choices with our children for what our families feel is best for them.

  • The truth always comes out

    So validating to read this. My children attended Coastal Grove in Arcata and I found many of their practices reinforced systemic racism, however when I brought this up their principal, Bettina Eipper and superintendent, Barbara Short both vehemently denied it, despite several families of color experience of their so called “inclusive” school. Barbra Short also refused to provide me information she previously offered regarding their hiring practices (the only employees of color work in the cafeteria- all teaching staff is white) stating Humboldt is a homogenous area. That excuse however, holds no water given that Coastal Grove literally shares a block with a Spanish emmersion charter school with several teaching staff of color (yet even CG’s Spanish teacher is white). CG instead believes they adequately address racism by reading stories of about people of color, yet the staff is completely oblivious on how to make an environment inclusive. My eldest daughter was being teased by a classmate repeatedly asking which Mexican gang she was in and her teacher didn’t even catch the what was going on and asked her if she was ok with what this student was saying?!?!? But didn’t stop it or discipline the kid?!? Also my youngest was being teased along with the only other child of color in her class after reading a story about Martian Luther King Jr. Staff did not take these incidents seriously and instead protected the children teasing calling it a “misunderstanding.” It is not the responsibility of vulnerable to teach the dominate class the ways they are behaving are racist. Certainly not the responsibility of my children. We have since left and found a far more inclusive and diverse school. Thank goodness the ACLU blew the whistle on this – perhaps now someone will take this matter seriously and actually do something to address it.

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