A coalition of parents and teachers in the Oakland Unified School District whose goal is to keep their schools public will donate $100,000 toward that cause following a settlement with the district in an alleged police brutality case.

The case stemmed from claims of police brutality at a board meeting in October 2019, when parents and teachers showed up to protest the closure of Henry J. Kaiser Jr. Elementary School at 25 S. Hill Court. Tempers flared during the contentious meeting and uniformed Oakland school police officers used metal barricades and their batons to push several protesters away from the stage where board members were seated. Six protesters were arrested.

Despite the protest by organizers with coalition Oakland Not For Sale and others, the school closed. School district officials decided it will reopen next year as a preschool.

The amount of the settlement is $337,500 in damages, with $100,000 going toward supporting school board candidates who want to keep schools public instead of converting them into charter schools, for example. At least some school board members will face reelection as soon as next year.

YouTube video
Oakland police officers control an angry crowd during a 2019 school board meeting. (Video courtesy of Oakland Public Education/YouTube)

“We’re thrilled to be announcing not only a settlement with the District, but our ability to now give a six-figure donation to our fight to stop public school closures and support candidates who will fight the privatization of the Oakland Unified School District,” said Saru Jayaraman, plaintiff in the litigation Jayaraman v. OUSD, in a statement.

“We’re also thrilled that in the same moment, we can declare victory in that Kaiser Elementary, which we fought to keep public, will indeed remain a public facility — and we will build on these victories with resources to continue to fight all future public school closures,” Jayaraman said.

“While it isn’t exactly what we would have hoped, we’re happy Kaiser is being used as a public facility for students and that we were able to resolve the litigation,” said Amy Haruyama, an OUSD teacher who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, taught at Kaiser Elementary, and now teaches at Sankofa United Elementary School.

“We’re thrilled … to now give a six-figure donation to our fight to stop public school closures and support candidates who will fight the privatization of the Oakland Unified School District.”

Saru Jayaraman, Oakland Not For Sale

Organizers with Oakland Not For Sale said OUSD officials have closed 17 public schools and almost all of them have been replaced with charter schools. Most of the closures involved schools serving mostly Black and Hispanic students, the organizers said.

California, which has trusteeship over Oakland public schools, and wealthy charter school advocates are behind the drive to replace public schools with charter schools, ONFS organizers said.

Families, teachers, and community groups formed Oakland Not For Sale following the decision by Oakland school officials to close Kaiser Elementary School.

“It was a wonderful diverse space,” said Melissa Korber, ONFS’s treasurer and the mother of a student who once went to the school.

Korber believed Kaiser Elementary was a successful school, with a diverse student population that was wrongly portrayed as a school that was not diverse.

School district officials declined to comment on the settlement announced Thursday.