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Board Bans Signing of Schools Bill at L.A. Campus

September 13, 2006|Howard Blume and Duke Helfand | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa won't be able to get on campus during school hours to sign legislation giving him substantial authority over the city's public schools.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District board -- which opposed the legislation and is expected to file a lawsuit over it -- directed staff to keep the signing ceremony off school grounds during the school week. The mayor and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had planned to stage the event at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights.

"The Roosevelt principal is very uncomfortable about the safety of kids and protecting the students during an event of this magnitude," said school board President Marlene Canter.

The discussion took place during board's regular closed-session meeting and was not specifically listed on its agenda. The matter came up under the heading of "Superintendent's Evaluation," Canter said.

Board policy prohibits the staging of partisan political events on campuses, and senior staff also expressed concern about lost instruction time. An event last week at Foshay Learning Center violated those strictures.

That event -- Villaraigosa's endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides -- was "the straw that broke the camel's back," said Canter, adding that the board simply felt compelled to enforce its own policy.

Students at Foshay were kept waiting in a hot auditorium when the event ran late and one girl fainted.

Those involved called the bill signing a legitimate state function and accused the school board of injecting politics into a nonpartisan ceremony.

"Their action speaks for itself," said Gabriel Sanchez, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), the legislation's co-sponsor. "You can draw your own conclusions."

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howard.blume@latimes.com

duke.helfand@latimes.com

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