January 23, 2023
Contact: Sumeet Bal, Director of Communications,, 917.647.1952

Civil Rights Law Firm Files Complaint to Address Staffing Chaos at Marina Middle School

SFUSD inaction to fill staff vacancies, address improper assignments fails multilingual learners and students with disabilities.


SAN FRANCISCO–Today Public Advocates, a non-profit civil rights law firm, filed a Williams complaint with the San Francisco Unified School District to address Marina Middle School’s failure to provide students with the qualified teachers they are entitled to under the law. Attorneys at Public Advocates have uncovered numerous teacher vacancies, teacher misassignments and a pattern of inaction by school administrators. Since 2005, as a result of Williams v. California, a landmark lawsuit brought by Public Advocates and other organizations in 2000, school districts are required to correct teacher vacancies and unlawful assignments within 30 days.

“The staffing chaos at Marina Middle School, with numerous departures and vacancies, rolling substitutes instead of stable teachers, and unlawful assignments are among the worst conditions we’ve seen since we filed Williams over 20 years ago,” said Public Advocates Managing Attorney, John Affeldt, who was one of the lead counsel on the Williams case. “While hiring is a challenge post-pandemic for most districts, SFUSD needs to be much more proactive in addressing the vacancies at Marina Middle and across the district. Inaction is not an option,” Affeldt added.

“This complaint also addresses a matter of justice for San Francisco’s immigrant communities,” said Sally Chen, Education Equity Program Manager at Chinese for Affirmative Action, a civil rights organization based in San Francisco. She added, “More than 50% of the students at Marina Middle School identify as Asian and 88% spoke either Cantonese, Spanish, Taishanese, Arabic or Mandarin. Many of them are newcomers to San Francisco. Education is a fundamental right that these students have been unable to access – this issue needs immediate action.”

While the teacher vacancies and misassignments are undermining instructional quality for students, the failure to also fill the roles of special education resource teachers, a counselor, a social worker, and a nurse, are further exacerbating the adverse impacts to the climate, and student wellbeing at the school, and placing additional burdens on current teaching staff,  paraprofessionals, and even security personnel who have been expected to cover these roles. “Recent public concerns about school culture, climate, and safety at Marina Middle School are directly related to the lack of stable staffing and a plan to fill positions with permanent, fully qualified personnel,” said Nicole Ochi, Deputy Managing Attorney at Public Advocates. “Suggestions that the school’s problems result from efforts by California and SFUSD to reduce arbitrary and punitive suspensions are misguided.”

Public Advocates is calling on SFUSD to take immediate action to remedy these violations and those occurring elsewhere in the district as anecdotal reports to the organization have been identified. The district must begin to develop long term solutions—more transparency through a proper district and school plan, communication with families, placement of qualified teachers and personnel, and centering the well-being and needs of all students, particularly multilingual learners and students with disabilities—to address these systemic issues that have led to a disruptive, unsafe, and unhealthy school culture, declines in enrollment, and staffing instabilities.

Click here to see the complaint.


Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing, transportation equity, and climate justice.

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