To the Whittier City School District: You Are Robbing Me of My Legal Right to School Choice

My four-year-old son is going to be turning five and starting kinder this year. I know which school I would like him to attend. It’s a school outside of my district but within the same city. But the Whittier City School District will not allow me to leave the district and is forcing me to enroll my son into a school that we do not want to or can’t attend.

I have been searching and researching schools outside of my district for a couple of years now.  My babysitter and I both live in Whittier, but the drive is about 20 minutes in the morning. I leave my house at 6:00 AM and drop off my son to the babysitter by 6:30 AM the latest.  

My babysitter has her youngest son enrolled in an elementary school just blocks (walking distance) from her house, which is the school that I would like my son to attend. Well, she told me early on that she was very sorry but that when the time came for my son to go to school, she could not drive my son to a school in my area because it would mean her having to make adjustments in her own son’s schedule, which understandably she did not want to do. She also shares a car with her college daughter so she said she could not commit to something as important as having to make sure that my son was at school on time and was picked up by a certain time after school.

Well, the time has come, I know what school I want my son to attend, it’s a great school, and I’m able to arrange transportation to and from that elementary school for him, BUT the Whittier City School District will not approve my inter-district transfer (a permit to be released from their district in order to be able to apply to another) because per the coordinator of student services, they have a protocol they must follow and if the babysitter’s address is within an eight-mile round trip distance of the child’s school, they have to deny your request.

I am so upset with the Whittier City School District. When I spoke to the receptionist and then the coordinator of student services, it was obvious that they realized that no one at their office had taken the time to review my reason for needing an inter-district transfer, this completely defeated the whole point of giving me an application to fill out with an additional form for my babysitter to fill out and sign.

If the district was first going to punch in my babysitter’s address and check off DENIED before reading my application, why make me jump through hoops? Why not tell me the day I walked in to pick up the application? Instead, the first time I visited the office and explained my situation, I was given false hope. The lady said, “If your babysitter lives in the district of the school that you want your child to attend, your permit will probably be accepted.”

I didn’t like this entire process from the beginning because it felt and it still does feel so wrong that we have to go through all of this just to have the right to choose the school we want our children to attend. Being able to select a school is supposedly our right. Nonetheless, I was respectfully going through the motions of what needed to be done.

I received the letter informing me that my permit request had been denied on 2-27-19. The letter says that I can appeal the decision by submitting a handwritten letter with all the details of why I am making this request and I will receive a decision within 30 days. It goes on to say that if our appeal is denied I can appeal again to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

This is madness!

I am a mother who researched schools, who felt confident about the school my family and I chose, a mother who made sure to look at dates and showed up to the district to request an intra-district transfer as soon as the website indicated that the application process was open. I have been on top of everything, especially knowing that my process might take some time after researching and learning of the steps involved. After receiving a release permit from my district, I would have to go to the district where the school of my choosing is and they would have to approve me before I can then apply for enrollment at our chosen elementary school.

School choice? It doesn’t feel like I have a choice.

If Whittier City School District does not approve my son’s request, my son will have to sit kindergarten out. I told the coordinator of student services, “I’m upset at your office because your office made the choice to reject my request. How could an application that says my babysitter will not drive my son to another school be denied? I was already stressed about the 5-7 business days that your office said it would take to receive a reply and now your office wants me to appeal and wait an additional 30 days.”

The district office seems to be using a cookie cutter method for all applications when it should be looking at them on a case by case basis. But frankly, I feel that if a parent is requesting a transfer it should be approved, regardless of the reason. Why would you keep students in your district against their will? The coordinator of student services gave me an understanding that the appeal committee would look at each application on a case by case basis. Still, I can’t shake off the anger of being denied in the first place knowing that the alternative is that my son can’t go to kinder.

I am a very optimistic person, and I rarely fall apart over life’s hurdles. However, this made me cry uncontrollably after I got off the phone with the Office of Special Education and Pupil Services. I had not cried that hard in I can’t remember how long. I was crying out of anger because I felt the injustice of being forced to attend certain schools. The anger of having to deal with all of this with something as important as the beginning of my son’s educational journey at stake. But of course, behind anger, there is always hurt. I felt hurt that they would try to impose in such a huge way in a family affair. Only my family should have the right to decide where my son goes to school. And the same applies to every other family.  

I wrote an appeal letter the same day I received my rejection letter, and now I’m just waiting. Time is ticking and more spots at schools are being taken every day. For a proactive parent who began the process early, I feel very weighed down and disappointed, to say the least by the Whittier City School District.

What do you think?

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Monica Luna Gonzalez

Monica Luna Gonzalez

Monica Luna Gonzalez is a certified Life Coach who works with parents by helping them learn to utilize their amazing parenting skills. She began this line of work after working solely with children for over two years and learning of a disconnect between a lot of the child-parent relationships. She is a mom of two children. Her oldest is a freshman in college and her youngest is shopping for preschools. She was a teen mom who graduated from Bell High School, despite the challenges that came from being a teen mom. She wishes she would have been prepared for college right after high school, which is why she wants to help others improve their children's chances for a better education. She is a non-traditional college student as she returned to college 18 years after graduating from high school.

One thought on “To the Whittier City School District: You Are Robbing Me of My Legal Right to School Choice

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    Even if your inter-district transfer out of your assigned school district was approved, there is no guarantee the receiving district will approve your transfer. And even if the receiving district did accept your transfer, the district (not you) gets to decide what school your student attends because first priority goes to students who actually live near that school. You only have real school choice when you opt into going to a charter or private school.

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