The primary claims in a discriminatory curriculum lawsuit against Santa Barbara Unified School District survived attempts to have the case thrown out Tuesday.
Judge Thomas Anderle denied all but one of the demurrers filed by attorneys for the school district and former Superintendent Cary Matsuoka against nonprofit parents group Fair Education Santa Barbara.
In December, Fair Education Santa Barbara filed a federal lawsuit against the school district and Just Communities, alleging six counts of intentional discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion and sex and violations of California laws requiring competitive bidding for government contracts.
Just Communities is a nonprofit that provides “unconscious bias” instruction to teachers, administrators and sometimes students.
On March 6, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit and the group re-filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on April 8.
Their latest amended complaint alleges the curriculum caused intentional discrimination based on race, and claims the school district failed to submit the Just Communities contract to public bidding.
Judge Anderle did find that Fair Education SB failed to successfully allege a violation of the California Education Code. He also granted a special motion to strike the discrimination allegations against Just Communities.
Fair Education Santa Barbara attorney Eric Early noted the complaint did not allege discrimination against Just Communities directly. But Judge Anderle granted the special motion, known as an anti-SLAPP motion, because the claims against the school district could still impact Just Communities’ free speech rights.
“The remedies sought include injunctions to preclude (the school district) from using (Just Communities) services, which is to say, to stop (Just Communities) from communicating its programming to (school district) staff and students. Each of these claims arise out of conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest,” wrote Judge Anderle in his tentative ruling on the motion.
The lawsuit’s main claims still stand, however.
“This was a great day for Fair Education Santa Barbara. Our case continues strongly against the school district and Matsuoka and on all of our major claims and we’re going forward. We didn’t even sue Just Communities on any of these claims that were being discussed so that ruling is totally moot. We believe strongly that the case law and the facts will allow us to find that the contract between the school district and (Just Communities) is void as a matter of law and should be thrown out,” Mr. Early said.
School district General Counsel Craig Price said the district will file its answer to the lawsuit by Nov. 19.
“The court was asked to make a number of very technical ruling that affected both Just Communities and the school district, the net result was mixed. Just Communities and the school district was successful in certain aspects and Fair Education Santa Barbara was successful in certain other aspects,” Mr. Price said.