Parent Trigger Foes Guzman & Yuan Head To Trial On Vandalism Charges

(June 10) Victorville—Chrissy Guzman and Lori Yuan, the mothers of Desert Trails Elementary School students whose  discomfiture over the “parent trigger” takeover of their children’s school allegedly incited them to vandalism, have decided to go to trial rather than accept a plea deal on lesser charges.
Students at Desert Trails Elementary School collectively were among the lowest performers on the state of California’s Academic Performance tests for five years running.
Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based organization that challenges the traditional lines of authority in California’s school system, targeted Desert Trails on the basis of its spotty performance and used that to make it the first school ever subject to California’s 2010 Parent Academic Empowerment Act, known by the colloquialism parent-trigger. Parent trigger allows parents who gather signatures from more than 50 percent of a failing school’s parents to relieve the district and school principal of their control of the school and fire up to half of the school’s faculty and dictate other academic policies.
Yuan, who was chairman of the Adelanto Plasnning Commission, and Guzman were active in the Desert Trails Elementry Schools Parent Teacher Association and served as volunteer assistant instructors and tutors at the school. They had strong opinions about the school’s academic challengers and failrures, believing that the schools test performance problems were rooted largely in the consideration that more than 30 percent of the students at the school had parents who did not speak English. Yuan and Guzman were highly critical of the parent trigger movement being applied into such a situation and thereby allowing those whose own academic failings were responsible for the underlying problem being permitted to take on authority over the learning environment at the school.
After the parent union at the school obtained the requisite number of parent signatures in early 2012, the school district challenged the validity of the signatures and sought to prevent the takeover from proceeding. A law firm on retainer to Parent Revolution intervened, however, and the takeover was granted through a court order in the late summer of 2012, but did not come in time for the change, which called for the firing of the school principal and allowing the parent union to essentially hire half of the school’s teachers, to take effect in the 2012-13 school year. Subsequently, the parent union’s agenda changed to converting the school to a charter school and La Verne Academy was chosen as the operator. That plan was finalized in June 2013. On June 26, 2013, according to the district attorney’s office, as Yuan and Guzman were assisting with the shuttering of the school for the summer, they used ketchup, mustard and paint to deface a Desert Trails Elementary School classroom.
The pair was not charged with the vandalism, alleged to represent roughly $8,000 in damage until November 27. Yuan and Guzman pleaded not guilty to the charges but in February the Adelanto City Council removed Yuan from the planning commission.
Since November, the pair has made nine court appearances. There were indications last month that a plea arrangement had been struck by which Guzman and Yuan would pay restitution and plead to a lesser misdemeanor, and be put on two year’s probation. That deal fell through, in part it has been suggested, because one of the witnesses the district attorney’s office is relying upon cannot connect either of the defendants to the crime.
Two individuals who are scheduled to testify on behalf of the prosecution are  Adelanto Elementary School District’s director of classified human resources Donna Landry and district maintenance supervisor Phillip Gonzales.
The district attorney’s office is now proceeding with felony vandalism charges against both defendants in lieu of the plea. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for June 18 and the preliminary hearing on the matter is set for June 23.

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