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A History Of Silencing Parents

The controversy over the selection of members of the LAUSD Special Education advisory committee highlights a system that abhors genuine feedback.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished 2 months ago 4 min read

“Parent involvement is more of a ‘doing to,’ while engagement is a ‘doing with.’”

– Larry Ferlazzo

With the approval of the Community Advisory Committee's Membership delayed following complaints about the way LAUSD bureaucrats selected the candidates, this state-mandated committee cannot possibly achieve a quorum. Despite the situation being the fault of the staff at Students, Families, and Community Engagement (SFaCE), these bureaucrats have used the lack of quorum as an excuse to ignore requests from the committee’s leadership team to hold a meeting with the remaining members. Without this meeting, an Admissions Committee cannot be held, which is needed to resolve the impasse.

While this group of parents has been forced into silence, Scott Schmerelson's Board-level Special Education Committee was able to hold its first meeting of the year on September 6, 2023. I arranged the following comments to be read to the membership of this committee during the public comment portion of the meeting:

The Special Education Committee provides an important opportunity for the community to interact with those in the LAUSD responsible for providing services to our most vulnerable students. I encourage each and every one of you to actively participate and to question speakers when information is presented that conflicts with what you have experienced. These meetings should be a two-way street where information flows both ways.

Another essential way for this community to provide feedback is through the Community Advisory Committee, often referred to as the CAC. This is one of three parent Committees whose existence is mandated by the California Ed code. This committee is charged with advising the Board on the creation of the SELPA and to advocate on behalf of the Special Education community.

By law, the members of the CAC are supposed to be selected "by their peers." To accomplish this, the committee's Bylaws state that "an appointment committee shall be formed, at least half of whom must be members of the CAC or selected by Members of the CAC." Unfortunately, the District's staff at the Office of Student, Family, and Community Engagement (SFaCE) have ignored the Education Code and the committee’s By-Laws to present proposed membership lists to the Board of Education that were created outside the established parameters.

After a dispute over an agenda item revolving around the proposed "Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD" resolution,” SFaCE used the selection process as an opportunity to purge the most vocal members of the Committee, including the Chair, John “JP” Perron, who was also a member of this committee last year. This action jeopardizes the committee's role as an independent advisor to the Board.

So far, two iterations of the membership list have been presented to the Board for approval. Responding to concerns, the agenda item was pulled both times. Unfortunately, SFaCE has not given any indication that they will follow the by-laws in creating the next iteration. I urge you individually and as a committee to demand that the proper process is followed before any membership list is approved and that the independence of the CAC is respected.

Should you have any questions about this process or the proposed "Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD" resolution, I urge you to contact me at ChangeTheLAUSD@­

Unfortunately, SFaCE's attempt to purge members of the CAC is not an isolated event. In a previous article, I detailed how a former CAC chair chose to resign when the bureaucrats attempted to force her to recognize them as having full authority over the CAC. In a video that was recently sent to me, District staff went even further as they sought to take control of another parent committee that is supposed to operate independently.

In the 2012 meeting of parent representatives to the District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC), bureaucrats threatened to remove elected members who questioned the information that was being presented. When these representatives refused to be bullied, staff had them forcibly removed by police officers, violating the parent committee's right to operate independently.

SFaCE exists to assist the CAC and other parent committees to fulfill their responsibilities, not to control their direction. As elected representatives who are responsible for developing the School District’s policies, the LAUSD Board has an obligation to ensure that acts of “bullying, intimidation and control” by staff at the LAUSD’s Parent Center are not tolerated. The Board must make it clear that the members of the CAC will be chosen by their peers, not imposed on them by District bureaucrats.


Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs, who serves as the Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit Opinions are his own.

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About the Creator

Carl J. Petersen

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.

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  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    I’m surprised they can get away with this! Great work!

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