OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The fight to keep some schools in Oakland open reached a new level Friday as a group of parents filed a legal claim against the school district.
The parents feel they have been pushed around by Oakland Unified School District figuratively and literally. They say they have had enough.
Standing in front of the Oakland Unified School District office Friday morning, the parents detailed the police brutality they say they were victims of the night of October 23rd at a school board meeting.
“And proceeded to descend upon us with their metal batons, beating up parents and teachers who are here today and even pushing one 9-year-old child,” said Saru Jayaraman, one of the nine Oakland parents filing the claim.
Jayaraman says she was thrown to the ground by an officer, tearing her ACL, MCL, meniscus and damaging her bone.
Dan Siegel, the lawyer representing the parents, said he had never seen such use of force in his 35 years in and around the school district.
“This is the first time that I have seen the school board send armed police officers with batons and other weapons to break up an assembly of parents and teachers,” explained Siegel.
Amy Haruyama, a first-grade teacher with 25 years of experience, said an officer struck her with a baton and knocked her off her feet, causing her to suffer whiplash and severe bruising.
Haruyama said, “I’ve never seen such police brutality but the school board let it happen.”
Deidre Snyder, a recently retired teacher, said she also suffered severe bruising from baton strikes.
Snyder said, “I didn’t do anything wrong except stand up for Oakland students and the future of Oakland schools.”
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Executive Director Zachary Norris, who is Jayaraman’s husband and was one of the six people who were arrested, said he believes the school board “is bent on closing schools,” particularly those with a large percentage of black and brown students.
Norris said the plan to close those schools is “the civil rights issue of our time.”
The claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, seeks unspecified damages for medical expenses, loss of employment and emotional distress.
The OUSD said — despite what these parents are claiming — they have never planned to close 24 schools. A spokesperson outlined how they’re breaking down what they’re calling their “blueprint for quality schools process.”
A total of 13 schools are being impacted. The moves include eight schools being merged into four, three school expansions, one school redesign and one school closure.
“The school district uses a lot of euphemisms to hide the fact that they’re closing down schools. And what we know to be true is that they haven’t been transparent,” said Zachary Norris, another parent involved in the claim.
The school district said in the case of Kaiser Elementary — a school at the forefront of this fight — the major aspects that make the school successful, including the principal and most of its students, will move together to the Sankofa Academy site. Officials say that makes the move a merger, not a closure.
Oakland Unified School District has said they will not comment on the claim because it is a pending lawsuit.
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