San Pasqual Academy announces lawsuit against San Diego County, state for trying to shut it down
KEARNY MESA (KUSI) – San Pasqual Academy has announced a lawsuit against the State Department of Social Services and County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency over their plans to close the school at the end June of 2022.
Among a number of violations, the attorneys representing the school say the closure by the state and the county is a violation of Equal Protection Guarantees of the California Constitution and of the Foster Youth Bill of Rights. For people like Jeffrey Wheat and his wife Jean, who packed up their lives and moved to the Escondido academy 18 years ago, the possibility of closure is personal.
“The children, they are screwing up their lives up right now. It’s a sin,” said Jeffrey Wheat, affectionally known as “Grandpa Jeffrey.” “They’ve been through different placements; obstacles and they’ve overcome. They are strong and have resilience. They don’t need our pity. They need our support. They need our respect.”
Earlier this year the state announced a shift away from foster congregate care facilities, wanting to focus on single-family home placements. They ordered the county to close the school by October but an extension has been granted to June 2022 to allow the final graduates to transition out.
Charles LiMandri, partner at LiMandri & Jonna, is representing the school and said the school is being wrongly categorized as a congregate facility when it deserves its own unique license.
“There’s actually more support provided at San Pasqual Academy than you would have in an individual foster home or group home,” LiMandri said. “It makes sense for them to have their own licensing category.”
LiMandri said that’s how state legislatures intended the school to be represented, citing the pilot program that launched in 2001 offered something no other foster group home had ever offered. County Supervisor Jim Desmond asked for the board to consider requesting an exemption from the state to allow the program to continue under a different license category, but that request did move forward to a vote.
San Pasqual Academy is comprised of small group cottages with around the clock parental supervision. The on-site high school is licensed to serve up to 184 students.
Because the state has ordered the closure, they are not allowed to accept new foster placements and numbers at the academy have dipped to the 50s. The suit alleges this violates Foster Youth Bill of Rights which grants every student the same right to quality public education, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
They added that taking students out of the academy where they are thriving and excelling also violated equal protection clause. They are calling on the county and state to work together to ensure funding and a future for San Pasqual Academy.
KUSI News reached out to County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher about the board’s response to the lawsuit but did not hear back.
KUSI’s Hunter Sowards was live from Kearny Mesa tonight with more on the legal battle.