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Compromising The Safety Of Public School Students

To comply with PROP-39, the LAUSD allows privately run charter schools to operate on its campuses without adequate controls to protect kids.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished 2 months ago 4 min read

This story was updated to reflect that while the incident occurred at the address for an LAUSD middle school, the students were enrolled at a non-LAUSD charter school that is co-located on that campus.


The initial report from KTLA that stated paramedics were called to an LAUSD campus in Koreatown on Thursday for a “medical incident” seemed strange given that district students were still enjoying their winter break. The Los Angeles Times clarified the story somewhat by reporting that the incident, which had “no indication of…being fentanyl-related”, occurred at a charter school that they did not name. A correction to the KTLA article then noted that the students attended “a middle school affiliated with the charter school chain Citizens of the World, [that] shares a campus with the LAUSD’s Virgil Middle School”.

Citizens of the World occupies space on the Virgil campus under a provision hidden in PROP-39 when it was passed by voters in 2000. While the electorate was told that the “primary impact” of this measure would be to “reduce the threshold required to pass local California school district bond issues from a two-thirds supermajority vote to a 55 percent supermajority vote”, the fine print also ordered that “each school district shall make available, to each charter school operating in the school district, facilities sufficient for the charter school to accommodate all of the charter school’s in-district students in conditions reasonably equivalent to those in which the students would be accommodated if they were attending other public schools of the district.” The word “co-location” does not appear in the text of the Proposition, but the sharing of campuses is the primary way that the LAUSD complies with the law.

By allowing a privately operated school to share space with a public school, the LAUSD gives up the ability to control safety measures on its campus. When Citizens of the World was operating on the campus of Shirley Avenue Elementary School, there were complaints from the public school community that the charter school was not following district COVID protocols. On the campus of Valley Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, the North Valley Military Institute (NVMI) charter school has allegedly left gates open without supervision, creating a hazard to both its students and LAUSD students.

The district also has no way of ensuring that the staff at the charter schools operating on its campuses have been properly screened. NVMI faced a lawsuit by parents claiming that their children were victims of “abhorrent child sex abuse” at the hands of an administrator who is said to have lived with the school’s Superintendent, Mark Ryan. The LAUSD has no way of knowing if this long-term relationship allowed the alleged perpetrator to bypass procedures that would have screened for potential danger to NVMI students and the public school students on the same campus. The district also could not ensure that mandatory reporting laws were being followed as the charter school allegedly claimed that “it had no obligation to report the conduct to the authorities.

After an LAUSD student died of a fentanyl overdose on the floor of the girl’s bathroom at Bernstein High School in Hollywood, Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho went on a public relations blitz to assure parents that he was doing everything possible to ensure student safety. What was left unmentioned is that police have alleged that the victim purchased the drug on campus from a student at APEX Academy charter school, which is co-located on the Bernstein campus. If the district cannot get the charter school organization that runs APEX to pay the $385,036.31 it owes the district under state law, how is it going to force it to comply with safety regulations on the campuses it occupies?

These are complicated times and students face a multitude of risks both in and out of the classroom. The LAUSD has no greater responsibility than to ensure the safety of the students in its care. To do this properly it must have full control of its campuses and must find a way to comply with PROP-39 without resorting to disruptive co-locations. The health and safety of its students depend on it.


Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and is the Education Chair. 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.


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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