The Los Angeles Unified School District filed federal court papers Thursday in hopes of preventing special-education teachers and support staff from taking part in a teacher strike if a walkout occurs as expected next week.
Los Angeles Unified provides special-education support and services to more than 60,000 students, many of whom have severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions, according to the district.
“To protect more than 60,000 special-needs students, Los Angeles Unified is seeking approval to move forward with a complaint to prevent (United Teachers Los Angeles) leadership and its members from engaging in a denial of services to special-needs students during a strike,” LAUSD attorney David Holmquist said in a statement.
“A strike would be detrimental to students with disabilities and their families, depriving the students of the special-education support and services they rely on each day.”
Such students are protected by federal and state special-education laws, and LAUSD is monitored under a modified federal consent decree for special education, according to the district.
District officials said they are seeking permission to move forward with a complaint in Los Angeles federal court to ensure that special-needs students do not lose access to services they need if UTLA moves forward with a planned Jan. 10 teacher walkout.
The UTLA called the action by the district “the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary pass and is using our most vulnerable students as pawns.
“If (Superintendent Austin) Beutner really cared about special education students, he would have responded to our proposals on special education class-size caps, which would relieve the burden of our overcrowded classrooms and overwhelming caseloads,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl.
“It is disingenuous to recognize the value of our teachers only in the role they play during a strike while working to undermine them as they seek better working conditions for themselves and learning conditions for their students through the bargaining process.”
UTLA represents more than 30,000 teachers. The union and district have been mired in contract talks for two years without reaching a resolution. Labor negotiators from both sides are tentatively expected to meet Monday for a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement.
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