LOS ANGELES – A national civil rights organization is asking the Huntington Beach City School District to reconsider efforts to shutter a school that serves the highest concentration of Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged students in that district.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) sent a letter to the HBCSD on Tuesday, following a recommendation made by a special task force created by the district to examine cost cutting measures.

“School closure is a serious issue,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “It should only be undertaken through a process that is inclusive and reflective of the concerns of all communities in a school district; that did not occur here.”

Last week, the task force voted 7-4 to recommend closing Joseph R. Perry Elementary School. About 48 percent of the school’s students were classified by the state as “socioeconomically disadvantaged” and 40 percent of its students are Latino, according to 2018-2019 data provided by the California Department of Education, by far the highest of both populations in the district.

The district Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider the task force’s recommendation, but no final vote is expected at that meeting.

At issue, is both the selection process for the task force as well its composition, according to MALDEF’s letter.

“The decision to permanently close a community school has a significant impact on students and community members,” said Deylin Thrift-Viveros, a staff attorney for MALDEF. “The district’s selection process did not ensure that the Task Force was representative of the district’s population, as required by law, and may have had the effect of excluding significant portions of the community.”

Attorneys said the district failed to provide for Spanish-language application or solicitation materials for selection to the task force. Additionally, applicants were required to provide a résumé, which likely would deter some parents who work in jobs that do not require résumés and is not a requirement for fulfilling the duties required for the task force.

The letter also raised concerns that the school closure process is unfair, noting that community members informed MALDEF that none of the current task force members live within or near the Perry Elementary school boundaries.

This is the second time that the HBCSD has considered shuttering Perry elementary. A prior task force decided against recommending the closure of Perry and, in June 2019, the district board unanimously voted to keep the school open, according to news reports.

Read MALDEF’s letter HERE.