Four years after the initial filing, the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District resolved a lawsuit alleging unreasonable fees for school supplies.
Judge Elihu M. Berle gave final approval of the fee lawsuit on November 16. Plaintiffs will receive a total of $ 960,343 for 476 full payments and 162 partial payments.
“I am pleased that we were able to resolve this dispute and move forward, despite our firm position that the allegations could have been dealt with and resolved long ago, had the plaintiffs’ attorney chosen.” unified complaints procedure rather than costly litigation, ”said Superintendent Ben Drati. “I remind parents once again of the district’s commitment to equality to ensure that all students have access to all aspects of our school and extracurricular programs, our support for the law regarding student fees, and our commitment to full compliance and our commitment to reach out to and resolve fee claims and concerns with students. “
Attorney Kevin Shenkman initiated the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of parents Vivian Mahl and Gina de Baca, alleging that SMMUSD had required families to pay for excursions, uniforms and school supplies, in violation of the constitutional guarantee of free education.
The lawsuit originally included more than 600 claims totaling $ 1,634,534. Seven claims exceeded $ 10,000 and peaked at $ 15,535.81. An additional claim required a refund of $ 552,257.21.
Out of a total of 655 lawsuits filed in the course of the lawsuit, 638 received some kind of payment.
The district has denied the lawsuit from the start, saying that there was already a process in place that allowed parents to request refunds, but the two sides reached an agreement in 2019. However, the final approval of the settlement was delayed because the parties were unable to come to an agreement on more than 300 disputed claims, the court-ordered arbitrator to rule the process emerged and the courts began Covid-related ones Closings.
The case experienced a second, brief delay when local attorney Joel Koury declined Shenkman’s legal fees. However, the judge disagreed with this objection and accepted the settlement this week. The $ 560,000 payment from Shenkman is in addition to the settlement amount.
Payment of the claims is expected in mid-January 2022 unless an appeal is filed
District officials said that despite the settlement of the case, the district does not admit wrongdoing, denies any wrongdoing, and denies the truth of the factual allegations in the lawsuit.