Mark S., et al. v. State of California, et al. (Education Equity)

Active Case
Sep 13, 2021

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

The State of California and Pittsburg Unified School District have maintained a separate, unequal, and illegal educational system where Black students, children of color with disabilities and English learners have been segregated in substandard learning environments, excluded from classrooms altogether through the use of unwarranted suspensions and expulsions, and as a result, denied their constitutional right to a public education.

On September 13, 2021, two students, two parents of former students, and a current teacher, filed a claim in Contra Costa County Superior Court, against the State Board of Education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, the State of California, and Pittsburg Unified School District. The complaint alleges the state and district’s unlawful practices harm thousands of its most marginalized students, primarily children of color.

On March 9, 2022, the Contra Costa County Superior Court rejected an effort by the State of California, the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Pittsburg Unified School District to dismiss the lawsuit by overruling Defendants’ demurrers to the complaint. The Court recognized the State of California’s duty to protect the rights of disabled and non-disabled students of color to a basic education, and to address and eliminate racial segregation. Judge Weil held, in an issue of first impression and a landmark ruling, that disabled students have a constitutional right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education. The Court rejected arguments made by the State and District Defendants that disabled and non-disabled students of color had no valid claims. Statistics show that the District ranks among the worst in the State with respect to segregation and academic achievement for disabled students, and it lags far behind in disproportionate discipline of Black, Indigenous and other students of color. This crucial win for students of color, with and without disabilities, allows them to advance their lawsuit and hold the State and District Defendants accountable to end discriminatory practices in school districts. 

The Plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU of Northern California Foundation, the ACLU of Southern California Foundation, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Learn more:

ACLU Sues Bay Area School District over "Separate and Unequal" Special Education Programs

ACLU Sues Pittsburg School District over "Separate, Unequal, and Ilegal" Special Education Program

Want to learn more about students’ rights? Please visit, which has Know Your Rights materials about Student Disability RightsSchool Discipline, and Harassment & Bullying, among other topics.


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