The Peabody-winning educational program South Park aired an episode the other night that took lawsuits against public school districts to despicably hilarious new heights.
The real-life cartoon plays out publicly–and locally–in the Capistrano, Santa Ana and Long Beach unified school districts.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse today
released a report on litigation costs to those and nine other school
districts across the state that found, in just three fiscal years, they spent $98.7 million on
“At a time when a record number of
our schools are in financial trouble and further education cuts
could be looming ahead, we cannot afford to allow these litigation
costs to grow unchecked,” said Maryann Maloney Marino, CALA's executive director, in a statement about the study.
“California continues to rank among the most
litigious states in every study yet we rank at the bottom in many
measures of student performance,” Marino continued. “The more dollars our schools have
to pay in litigation costs, the less we have to improve our
She pointed to figures that show among the 50 states, California ranks 45th in 4th grade
math, second to last in 8th grade reading, 46th in the Institute for Legal Reform's Lawsuit
Climate 2010 report and 41st in the 2010 U.S. Tort Liability
“We hear story after story of
activities schools are forced to cut, yet no one ever talks about
one of the most unpredictable costs of all–litigation,”
Marino said. “These numbers reflect just 12 of California's
school districts. With nearly 1,000 in the state, there's no
telling what the total number is.”
The number in Santa Ana is $2.3 million. That's how much SAUSD spent on litigation costs just in fiscal year 2009.
“To put that number
in perspective, the district could have bought 22,928 chalkboards,” reads the CALA statement, which also quotes Orange Juice blogger and SAUSD school board candidate Art Pedroza.
“Our local school district has
already had to severely slash its budget, due to state funding
shortfalls,” he says. “There are
times when lawsuits are necessary, but frivolous suits do nothing
more than hurt our students–we need to take steps to stop
abusive lawsuits and keep our funding in the classrooms, where it
Here is the link to the full study, “Lessons in Lawsuits: The Impact
of Litigation on California's Schools.”