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ACLU Is Fighting for School Equality

November 18, 2003

In "Education's Division Problem" (Commentary, Nov. 13), Abigail Thernstrom asks, "Where is the outrage?" when referring to the issue of gross inequality in the public schools. Incredibly, she accuses the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP of remaining silent on the issue. In May 2000, the ACLU of Southern California and other groups filed the landmark education lawsuit Williams vs. California. Articles and editorials on the case have appeared in USA Today, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and even the Los Angeles Times. Information can be found at www.aclu-sc.org.

Over 1 million public school students throughout the state are represented in the Williams lawsuit. These are students who lack adequate textbooks, qualified teachers, working bathroom facilities and other basic necessities needed to learn. It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of the students who attend decaying schools where the test scores are generally the lowest are poor, African American and Latino. The achievement gap that Thernstrom mentions is difficult to close when students don't have enough textbooks to take home, must suppress urges to use the bathroom because of repulsive conditions or sit in classrooms that are as crowded as cattle cars. We are glad to welcome her to the fight for equality in California's public schools.

Ramona Ripston

Executive Director, ACLU

of Southern California

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