A trio of parents have sued the Orange Unified School District and its school board, alleging violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act.
Alexander and Sarah Brewsaugh and Gregory Pleasants filed their complaints separately after the termination of Superintendent Gunn Marie Hansen on January 5.
“The school district had won the Golden Bell Award, which is an extremely prestigious award for school districts in the state of California and it was widely agreed by educators and even the board before the makeup of the board changed that she was one of the best superintendents in the state of California,” said Alexander Brewsaugh, a workers’ compensation attorney in Santa Ana.
Pleasants did not reply to requests for comment, but the Brewsaughs allege the board did not follow proper protocol in Hansen’s termination.
“They’re trying to hide that they had come to this decision before the January 5th meeting, and the January 5th meeting wasn’t about considering anything, it was about executing a predetermined plan to fire our successful superintendent,” Brewsaugh told OrangeCountyLawyers.com.
Under the Brown Act, defendants have a month to cure or respond to a demand but in this case, Brewsaugh said he did not receive a reply from the board, which is why he sued.
“In that 30 days they had to respond to my Brown Act demand letter, the board met twice and did not calendar any discussions with their legal counsel at all, so they just stuck their heads in the sand,” he said.
The two lawsuits reflect the rapidly emerging parental rights movement nationwide.
On March 24, House Republicans approved a H.R. 5 (118th), granting parents the right to access teacher-parent meeting records, school budget materials, curriculum and books, and unhindered opportunity to testify before a school board.
“It speaks to the radicalization at the school board level of local politics,” Brewsaugh said about the Parental Bill of Rights. “These are what used to be nonpartisan positions in that everybody was trying to do well for our kids. They have politicized it.”
The Brown Act prohibits secret legislation by public bodies and requires open meetings while the California Public Records Act, approved by the state legislature in 1968, provides the public access to government records unless the requested documents are exempt.
“We have an email that shows three of the four board majority members had already made the decision before the January 5th meeting and coordinating how to execute said decision,” Brewsaugh said in an interview. “Those are decisions that are properly made at a public meeting after consideration with the whole board and comments from members of the public.”
Members that make up the elected school board are Rick Ledesma, John Ortega, Angie Rumsey, Andrea Yamasaki, Ana Page, Madison Miner, Kris Erickson. The voting majority includes Ledesma, Ortega, Rumsey, and Miner but they did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The superintendent was absolutely nonpartisan,” Brewsaugh added. “She was hired by a majority conservative board. They lost the majority, then regained it, and that’s when Madison Miner was voted in. But my lawsuit is not partisan. My lawsuit is not about conservative versus liberal. My lawsuit is about good government.”
“It was common knowledge that special interest groups run the show in Orange Unified,” she wrote. “They’d often try to stop student transfers to other schools or districts, influence curriculum and increase spending. I’m running to change this status quo and bring a ‘parent first’ perspective to the school board.”
Photo courtesy Orange USD public meeting on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmZPayuzwiE
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.