This issue shares the stories of two California communities that successfully used legal strategies to raise local voices, promote democracy in the policymaking process, and ensure that everyone has a seat at the table.
In South Kern, parents fought back after the local school district refused their pleas for a fresh look at harsh school discipline policies. For years, school leaders had not only refused to meet with local advocates, in many cases, they also failed to disclose information about racial and ethnic disparities in suspension and expulsion rates, as required by law.
After being ignored for so long, local parents took their arguments to court, where they prevailed and forced the district to listen. Advocates and school district leaders ultimately agreed to a negotiated solution that included an apology and a plan for comprehensive school discipline reform.
A similar story recently unfolded in Fresno, where residents blocked a massive industrial development that would have brought more pollution to low-income neighborhoods already suffering from the city’s worst air quality.
Local leaders launched a massive organizing campaign and enlisted attorneys to challenge the construction permit, especially the developer’s claim that 6,200 daily truck trips would have only “minimal impact” on air quality and the environment. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra supported the residents’ case, and the community scored a huge win just as this issue was going to press. Click through to read the full story (Español aquí)!
When learning more about these campaigns, I was struck by how closely legal and organizing strategies worked hand-in-hand. Lawsuits did more than win injunctions, they shined a light on longstanding injustice in a visible and powerful way.
I hope you enjoy learning more about these stories, and I hope they inspire you to promote health and democracy in your communities.