Teachers' unions file suit seeking to stop loss of CCSF accreditation

Beth LaBergeThe City College  Chinatown/North Beach Campus at 808 Kearney St on Nov. 7

Beth LaBergeThe City College Chinatown/North Beach Campus at 808 Kearney St on Nov. 7

A lawsuit was filed today by two teachers' unions on behalf of City College of San Francisco seeking a court injunction to prevent the school from losing its accreditation.

Representatives from the California Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 gathered at City Hall this afternoon to announce the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the ACCJC violated state and federal laws during the accreditation process for City College, CFT president Joshua Pechthalt said.

Attorney Bob Bezemak, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the unions, said education is a constitutional right and the ACCJC overlooked state law that requires every county to have a community college.

Another key point in the lawsuit is that the evaluation teams that came to City College in April 2012 and March 2013 were “not representative bodies of students and staff,” Pechthalt said.

The ACCJC announced on July 3 that, pending an appeal by the school, City College's accreditation would end on July 31, 2014.

However, the lawsuit seeks an injunction by a judge to reverse the ACCJC's decision to revoke the school's accreditation as well as reversing an earlier decision to place the school on “show cause” status, CFT spokesman Fred Glass said.

The lawsuit also seeks restitution to City College for financial harm as a result of being placed on “show cause” status, Glass said.

Last year, the commission decided to put City College on “show cause” status, citing multiple problems such as the school's governing structure and an excessive number of campuses.

The ACCJC provided City College with a list of 14 recommendations to meet to keep its accreditation but in July said they only met two of the 14 recommendations.

The lawsuit filed today also alleges that the ACCJC illegally held a meeting in June to take away City College's accreditation but was not supposed to discuss the matter until its next biannual meeting in January 2014, Glass said.

A judge's decision on a possible injunction could come in the next four to six weeks, Glass said.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a separate lawsuit last month seeking to stop the ACCJC's decision to revoke City College's accreditation, arguing that the commission ignored conflicts of interest such as ACCJC president Barbara Beno's husband being on one of the teams that evaluated the school.

Herrera's lawsuit, which is still pending in court, seeks to stop the ACCJC from taking away City College's accreditation and prevent such actions from taking place at other California community colleges.

The ACCJC also suspended the authority of City College's board of trustees on July 3 and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris appointed Robert Agrella as a special trustee overseeing the school.

City College student trustee Shanell Williams said Agrella's appointment has “felt like a dictatorship.”

Williams said, “We can't have people outside of the community telling us what our values will be.”

State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said, “This is not a black and white issue — this is a life or death issue.”

San Francisco Supervisors Scott Wiener, John Avalos and David Chiu were also present at today's news conference in support of the lawsuit.

ACCJC officials today declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying they had not yet received a copy of the complaint.

The commission previously released a statement about Herrera's lawsuit, saying it was “without merit” and an attempt to “interfere with the ongoing accreditation review process.”Bay Area NewsCCSFeducation

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