Despite California overtaking New York as the state with the most coronavirus cases, some parents in the sunshine state are more than ready for schools to reopen. This week, California topped 400,000 cases, but a group of parents is suing the state to demand schools reopen with in-person classes this fall. In the lawsuit, they claim that virtual learning isn’t a replacement for in-person instruction.
California schools haven’t had in-person classes since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom said schools in the hardest-hit counties will remain closed until cases fall. Some of the state’s largest school districts also announced remote learning for fall, including Los Angeles Unified School District.
The Lawsuit Details
The lawsuit targets California, Newsom, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and other officials, Courthouse News Service reports. Parents pointed out several issues with remote instruction, including a “digital divide” in the home of “African American and Hispanic parents,” and a lack of reliable digital devices.
“Not providing education for America’s children is not a choice,” the 35-page complaint reads.
In the complaint, parents claim violation of the Equal Protection Clause for arbitrary school closures, violation of due process, civil rights act of 1964 and federal disability rights.
The lawsuit also brought up a point featured in most discussions about schools reopening — kids being able to socialize. Erica Sephton, a parent from Riverside County, stated her kindergarten-ready daughter needs social interaction with classmates.
“Sephton is aware of the risks of Covid-19 and believes that these minor risks for children do not outweigh the harm that her daughter is suffering by being deprived of her in-person education,” according to the complaint.
Are In-Person Classes Vital for Child Development?
Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocated for in-person classes this fall. They reasoned that “schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being.” Remote learning, however, could be detrimental because of social isolation and severe learning loss.
This statement was used to support the lawsuit and was also used by the Trump administration in their push to reopen schools. Since then, AAP has clarified its stance on kids returning to in-person classes.
“Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools,” the AAP said in a new statement. “Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics.”
Teachers are also wary as the debate about reopening schools progresses. In Florida, the largest teachers union is suing the state in an effort to stop the “reckless and unsafe re-opening of schools.”