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Critics of 'Parent-Trigger' School to be Arraigned on Vandalism Charges

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In the latest chapter of the ongoing saga at the nation's first so-called "parent-trigger" school, two of the school's most vocal local critics have been charged with vandalizing one of the Adelanto, Calif., school's classrooms, causing $8,000 in damages.

Chrissy Guzman and Lori Yuan, the chairwoman of the Adelanto Planning Commision, are scheduled to be arraigned in Victorville Superior Court on Jan. 13 and could face up to three years in county jail, according to a story in The San Bernardino County Sun. The pair allegedly vandalized Desert Trails Elementary School at the end of June, just days before a private charter school operator took over the failing school. 

"The damage consisted of ketchup, mustard, and paint strewn about the room damaging carpets and window coverings and other items," Christopher Lee, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, said in the article.

Concerned Adelanto parents waged a two-year campaign to wrest control of Desert Trails away from the local school district using California's 2010 Parent Empowerment Act. The parents voted to turn the school—now called Desert Trails Preparatory Academy—over to a private charter school operator. The new school opened in July.

These charges may finally resolve some nagging questions I had about Desert Trails after I visited the school and community last fall. Often portrayed as the tale of two schools, one fact is undisputable—the student test scores were dismal.

But the school's campus prior to the takeover by the current charter operator was either fairly clean or filthy, depending on whether you spoke with a Desert Trail parent trigger supporter, critic, or neutral observer. (For the record, during my visit the school was spotless.)

Yuan, who I interviewed by telephone for Education Week's story, characterized the fight over Desert Trails as an "absolute melee" that was as tense as the fight between the Hatfields and the McCoys—without the guns, of course. The mother of two former Desert Trails students, Yuan said that she has spoken at a variety of venues (including, neighborhood councils and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Democratic Club in August 2013) about the parent-trigger law and what happened in Adelanto. Yuan did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the vandalism charges. 

"I could care less what happens [to Desert Trails]," Yuan told me last fall. "I never wish for kids to fail, ever. What I want recognized is two things: They are not dealing with the exact same [student] population. There is no magic solution."

A spokesman for Parent Revolution, the California-based nonprofit that assisted Adelanto parents throughout their parent-trigger campaign, has questioned why there was a five-month delay between the alleged incident and the charges being filed.

"Why did it take so long?" spokesman Derrick Everett asked in the Sun.

Adelanto Superintendent Lily Matos DeBlieux told the Victorville Daily Press that a district administrator reported the incident immediatley to police on June 26. She added that the district is seeking full restitution for the damages.

Even Adelanto's mayor is weighing in on the charges, describing Yuan as a "very respectable woman."

"I guess it goes to show that a mother's passion for something can sometimes overtake you," Mayor Cari Thomas said in the Daily Press article. "[Yuan] was very passionate about her child's education and I think that's why she was involved with the Desert Trails (case)."

There's likely more to come in this ever-evolving and highly complicated story about America's first parent-trigger school. Let's just hope the students don't get lost in this latest legal tussle. 

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