Bullis Charter School officials last week filed two separate motions in their lawsuit over facilities for the 2012-2013 school year in an effort to defend themselves from a cross-complaint by the Los Altos School District.
The facilities lawsuit, which received some closure earlier this month when Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas ruled in the district’s favor on three points, is ongoing. Arguments have yet to be heard on whether the charter school’s facilities are “reasonably equivalent,” as mandated by Proposition 39, approved by voters in 2000.
The district filed a cross-complaint in the case, calling out the charter school for being a “publicly subsidized private school” that “accomplishes less with more.”
In their cross-complaint, district officials ask the court to rule whether they are required to provide Bullis Charter School with any facilities – or fewer of them – based on the charter school’s practices, which they claim are not in line with the intent of Proposition 39.
“Proposition 39’s lack of guidance … leads to costly disputes that divert taxpayer money from where it belongs – in the classroom,” the cross-complaint states.
Los Altos School District Trustee Doug Smith said the district was not challenging Bullis Charter School’s right to exist.
“All we are asking for is some clarity,” he said. “We are asking what our responsibility is within Proposition 39 if these issues are true.”
The charter school’s legal team filed an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) motion and a demurrer against the district’s cross-complaint.
Anti-SLAPP suits are designed to protect an individual’s or organization’s First Amendment rights of petition and speech. The demurrer – an objection that an opponent’s point is irrelevant or invalid – includes Bullis Charter School’s arguments against the validity of the cross-complaint.
“This is a classic SLAPP situation,” said attorney Arturo Gonzalez, representing the charter school. “The district filed this frivolous action in retaliation for the students at Bullis Charter School exercising their statutory rights.”
The anti-SLAPP action calls for the court to strike the cross-complaint in its entirety.
“Even if the district survives the SLAPP, the cross-complaint lacks merit,” Gonzalez said. “The district is making arguments in court that they need to make to the legislature.”
Gonzalez characterized the district’s cross-complaint as stating that “charter schools should only exist in low-income communities.”
“Every child is entitled to a charter school – there are no exceptions,” he said. “This district is so arrogant that they are just making a claim that ‘We don’t need charter schools here.’”
Gonzalez said he doesn’t expect Lucas to rule in the district’s favor regarding the cross-motion.
“This case is ground zero in the legal battle for charter schools in California,” he said. “I would not expect our judge to be the first judge to make that type of ruling.”
Bullis Charter School and Los Altos School District officials are scheduled to meet regarding the cross-complaint and the charter school’s two new motions Jan. 8 at the Santa Clara County Superior Courthouse, Dept. 2.