School District Hid Court Case That Led to $45 Million Award

October 26, 2022

Dear Editor,

In reference to your article, “Jury Awards Autistic Twins $45 Million in Case Against SMMUSD” the public was blindsided by the fact that the District was in court for a jury trial.

The District -- which has operated in secrecy for years to hide critical accountability information from the public -- seems to have gone to great lengths to conceal the existence of this lawsuit.

For example, the school board failed to disclose in the school board meeting agenda and in the minutes the court case number when addressing the corresponding A/R and B/P items agendized on October 6 in closed session and again as a major action item recommending that the Board “[grant][deny] the appeal”.

Furthermore, a search of the agendas for the past five years returned results related to the court case only starting in October of 2022, while the case was originally filed in 2019.

It is hard to believe that for almost three years the School Board never discussed the lawsuit. The case was first reported in The Lookout this month, which is likely what caused the school board to apparently approve an unlawful manipulation of public record.

As documented, the Board appears to continue a pattern that fails to provide case number citations on agendas as part of the required legal notice under State Law.

We wonder if these horrific actions against small children is the reason the board added an Executive in 2018 to liaise between the Malibu school principals and Superintendent Drati.

Documentation on Transparent California’s website shows a House Principal was hired in late 2017 and within months was fully installed as a Director of Malibu’s Pathway. The timing of that move aligns with the 2017/18 period of child abuse at Juan Cabrillo Elementary.

Then in June of this year, the Board added two additional Executive Director positions within SM schools at the expense of smaller class sizes even while CBEDS 2021/22 data shows there are only 8,000 students enrolled in Santa Monica’s public schools.

The fact is that SMMUSD enrollment dropped 16 percent between 2017/18 to 2021/22 with additional decline expected this year. With increased declining enrollment, why were principal overseers hired to liaise between principals and the Superintendent -- two for a total of 8,000 students and a third for 1,100 kids?

Why has the board refused to reinstate these critical positions instead; Director of Personnel and Director of Curriculum & Instruction? As a result of these losses, the District operates disjointed processes for hiring and curriculum adoption.

Our children deserve a brighter future that includes wellness, kindness, smaller class sizes and basic stuff and staffing unattached to fund raising because the community has provided the funding for all of it.

Please be considerate of the kids when you vote!

Ann Thanwalla
Santa Monica Resident, Voter and current SMUSD Parent


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