A diploma worthless in all 53 states

Mexican immigrants paid $450 to $1,450 for diplomas from a school that taught them the “original 50 states” have been expanded to 53 states, with the addition of Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The LA Times reports on California Alternative High School in Huntington Park, which was raided Thursday.

A chain of alternative high schools accused of selling phony diplomas has taught thousands of immigrants that there are 53 states in the union, four branches of government and two houses in Congress — one for Republicans and one for Democrats. 

Students were given worthless diplomas after 30 hours of classes. Most instruction was in Spanish.

According to court papers filed by the California attorney general’s office, the California Alternative High School’s 54-page bilingual workbook contains the following statements:

•  There are four branches of government. They are the legislative, judicial, executive and “administrative” branches. Asked about the fourth branch by investigators, one teacher responded that “not much is heard about it because it works behind the scenes.” The Treasury Department is part of the “administrative” branch.

The workbook also advises students that World War II occurred from 1938 to 1942 and tells them to “read the book ‘Death of a Traveling Salesman’ and write a commentary.”

The school claims to have 77 locations nationwide, and 1,500 students “graduating” every 10 weeks. That’s a lot of suckers. I think those Internet diplomas are cheaper, and don’t require “learning” bogus information.

About Joanne


  1. So sad to see that Joanne is still stuck in that patriarchal, Ice People view of absolute truth.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yuo mean this is the only worthless diploma? Hell, with all the dumbing down, new math, and political correctness, just about every HS diploma is worthless.

    College Diploma: the high school diploma of the 21st century!

  3. John from OK says:

    53 is a good number. It doesn’t have to be exact, you just have to feel good about coming up with it.

  4. 53 States! What about Canada? What, now they dont get a star on the flag? Unbelievable.

  5. Mad Scientist says:

    Oops! Forgot to put my e-mail address in.

  6. I think President Bush made the same mistake about the administrative branch. They run the show anyway, we may as well admit that it exists.

  7. Hispanic immigrants–legal ones and illegal– are ripped off a lot–that’s what the article was about. More here:


    An immigration scam exploiting the use of the Spanish word notario has bilked thousands of Latino immigrants seeking to legalize their United States residency status and prompted Los Angeles officials to launch a crackdown.

  8. With a minor amount of digging, the school story gets even better:


    Crusade to Shut Down School Grad Launches Legal Battle After Alma Mater’s Diplomas Raise Questions

    Los Angeles Daily News – June 14, 2004

    A Salvadoran immigrant – dubbed the Erin Brockovich of education by supporters – has led the charge to shut down a private school under investigation in at least three other states for conferring questionable high school diplomas to low-income Latino and immigrant students.

    Bessy Echeverria, 28, of Reseda won a small claims suit in a Van Nuys court last year ordering the Lomita-based California Alternative High School to refund her $475 in tuition after the diploma she received was not accepted by the West Valley Occupational Center.

    Last month, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted her request for an injunction to stop the school’s owner, Daniel Gossai, 53, of Hawthorne, from advertising that it offers either a high school education or diploma.

    “I want to help the Hispanic community so this man won’t take advantage of them anymore,” Echeverria said.

    “It was upsetting because my dream was to have my high school diploma … from the United States. When I found out this … I felt all my dreams went to the floor – all my hopes, too.”

    But Echeverria’s fight is far from over.

    Gossai is appealing the injunction and has slapped Echeverria and two relatives with a $2 million defamation suit, even as the school is still holding classes in California. Court documents he filed say the women visited classes and questioned the legitimacy of the school, which Echeverria and her relatives deny.

    Gossai’s attorney, Scott Furstman, said his client has done nothing wrong and that the school “provides a service to individuals within the community that welcome and need alternatives.”

    “My client believes that the girls made outrageous, slanderous statements,” Furstman said.

    Furstman said California Alternative has added a disclaimer on its brochures stating the school has not been approved by the state. He also said thousands of students have graduated from the school since it was founded about 20 years ago.

    “From our perspective, these series of allegations and complaints are the first in the history of CAHS,” Furstman said.

    But officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs and the state Department of Education say they have received dozens of complaints and questions from students and prosecutors in other states.

    Like Echeverria, they complain that the diplomas granted by the school have not been accepted by academic institutions.

    “We have received 13 requests for mediation on this school,” said Pastor Herrera, the county’s director of consumer affairs. “At this point, this is the only school (of its kind) that I know of that we’re working on.”

    What especially upsets Echeverria is the school’s close relationship with local churches, where it advertises its diplomas and conducts most of its classes.

    “It’s in a church and (Gossai) uses God. That makes you think, how can this be a lie? I was stupid to believe them, but I asked them a million times,” she said.

    Echeverria said her classes were held for just three hours each Saturday for a total of 10 weeks. She participated in a graduation ceremony, wearing a mint green cap and gown, after passing the school’s competency test.

    “The graduation was so real,” said Echeverria, tears streaming down her face. “My family was there. That’s what hurt the most – they were devastated (when they found out later).”

    She moved from El Salvador a decade ago – when she was just a year short of completing high school. She’s since been learning English, working, raising her two young children and taking GED classes at Los Angeles Unified’s West Valley Occupational Center.

    When she heard about the California Alternative High School at her church – Iglesia de Dios Camino de Santidad in Encino – she thought her prayers had been answered: a fast way to get her diploma.

    A school brochure said, “We are committed in a special way to help the Hispanic population, and I (Gossai), as principal of CAHS, have accepted my calling from God to help the Hispanic population to improve their lives and to get out of poverty.”

    The brochure also states that the school is “recognized by both the state of California and the federal government as an institution conferring the high school diploma for students to participate in financial aid programs at accredited colleges and universities.”

    Although she couldn’t find any state or federal officials to confirm the school’s legitimacy, she had faith that the diploma would be real.

    Mary Jones, a consultant with the state Department of Education, said she’s received dozens of calls about California Alternative, including inquiries from officials in Nebraska, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona, where the school also operates.

    But she said private schools in California are not regulated by the state.

    “It’s basically a buyer-beware situation for private schools.”

    In some states with more regulatory power, attorneys general have taken steps to shut down California Alternative, which operates in many churches that serve the Latino community. Late last month, an Iowa court temporarily banned the school from recruiting students or conducting classes in the state.

    Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office in California, said: “At this point in time, we have no comment on California Alternative High School.”

    When Gossai filed the defamation suit, Echeverria hired Los Angeles attorney Stephen Shikes.

    “I just sat there and listened with my mouth open,” Shikes said. “I just knew something had to be done.”

    “There is no loophole in California law which allows Gossai to continue to bilk and defraud the unsuspecting, unsophisticated and trusting public,” Shikes wrote in a countersuit filed against Gossai’s defamation suit.

    Shikes said the monetary amount sought by Echeverria and her relatives in the countersuit has not yet been determined.

    The long fight has been a learning experience for Echeverria, whose supporters see her as similar to Erin Brockovich, the Westlake Village legal assistant who helped win a record judgment against Pacific Gas and Electric for environmental contamination in the California town of Hinkley.

    Janine Quint, a counselor at the West Valley Occupational Center, said she’s seen about a dozen students try to enroll with California Alternative diplomas.

    “Several come in, and we tell them that it’s bogus. They cry. They get upset,” she said. “It’s amazing that Bessy took this on. It’s usually too much trouble.”

    Echeverria said it’s inspired her to push harder for justice in her community.

    “My dream was to get a career. Now I’m thinking, since I went through this, of studying law so I can help my people get legal advice.”

    Jennifer Radcliffe, (818) 713-3722



    For complaints about schools, call the L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs at (213) 974-1452

  9. Stephen Allan Shikes, Esq. says:

    I am the attorney who represents Bessy, Maria and Saira. These are the three young women who were sued by Gossai for slander and interfering with his “business”. They stood to lose their homes for standing up. But that has always been Gossai’s technique; attack, intimidate, sue. But Bessy, Maria and Saira decided to fight back.

    They told their friends and other students. And for this they were ridiculed. “How could these three latina immigrants say something bad about this man who is ‘helping’ the Hispanic Community?”

    In preparing a witness list for the defense against Gossai’s two million dollar law suit I found only a half dozen other students who were willing to come forward. The others I spoke to, and there were many, were afraid of being sued by Gossai too.

    My clients stood their ground. We counter sued, and, in December of 2003 obtained an Injunction against Gossai and his school. The real story is that three young women and a lawyer who wouldn’t be intimidated drove a stake into the heart of a blood sucking charlatan who was ripping off honest hard working immigrants like our fathers and grandfathers. Now, that’s American. Three women and a country lawyer against the man who is now being sued by the California Attorney General for thirty two million dollars. Welcome aboard Mr. Lockyer.

    Bessy, Saira and Maria (and me too) have been fighting long and hard. Their efforts have, and will continue to, benefit people who will never know their names. Bessy, Saira and Maria are truly unsung AMERICAN heros. They took a stand and put themselves at risk because “it was the right thing to do.”

    Stephen Allan Shikes, Esq.


  1. 53 states

    Joanne Jacobs wrote about it–the school chain that recruited through churches and awarded “diplomas”. Jason Felch wrote about it for the LA Times, and now there’s a follow up.

  2. Nykola.com says:

    She Gives Links!

    Heard ’round the blogosphere… In light of President Bush’s latest decision to allow our elections to be monitored, La Shawn Barber has sworn off voting in the next presidential election. Tempting. Avery Tooley just hit his three-year anniversary of l…