Central High tree-cutting case delayed

A court hearing scheduled for Thursday in the case of five students who were kicked out of Central High School for cutting down two shade trees was pulled from the Fresno County Superior Court calendar.

An appeal notice filed this week by Central Unified postponed the case.

Central Unified is appealing a decision issued Monday by Fresno County Superior Court Judge Adolfo Corona that ordered the district to hold off transferring the five students pending the outcome of their lawsuit. In his order, Corona wrote the school district "is not likely to prevail."

School district officials and their lawyers said the appeal notice filed Tuesday morning suspends Corona's order. They said they will seek relief from Fifth District Court of Appeal.

Attorney Laura Guzman Magill, who represents the five students with her husband, Charles Magill, said she was surprised the case was removed from the court calendar. "It was taken off because the judge said he no longer has jurisdiction over the case," she said.

A clerk for the Fifth District Court, where the case is expected to land, said paperwork on the case was not yet on file and no hearing date had been set.

Central Unified School District officials were expected to issue a statement on the case Thursday afternoon, but district spokesman Cary Catalano said later no additional statement was forthcoming.

The district calls the cutting of the two nearly 20-foot trees in the quad area of Central High School East Campus last month a case of "significant vandalism" with damage estimated between $7,500 and $14,000. But the students described it as a "senior prank" meant to deprive their junior classmates of shade. The families sued the district after they disagreed over the method of punishment. They said they agree the students should be disciplined and offered to pay restitution.

The students were suspended for a week and later transferred to the district's alternative school to finish the year.

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