Three California parents are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state and local officials for limiting in-person instruction due to COVID-19 after they say their children have all been severely hindered by it.
The lawsuit argues in-person instruction is critical for students’ educational development, as well as development of social and emotional skills.
“Social interaction at school among children in grades PK-12 is particularly important for the development of language, communication, social, emotional, and interpersonal skills. This social-emotional development is largely developed through in-person contact. Such routine-in-person contact is greatly hindered by distance learning,” the complaint states.
The parents, represented by the Freedom Foundation, allege that Gov. Newsom, California Controller Xavier Becerra, State Health Director Sonia Angell, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond’s new education policies deprive their children of the “fundamental right” to education of “sufficient quality” under the California Constitution.
“Online education is causing serious mental health issues, along with an academic crisis the students find themselves in. Our children deserve better than this; our tax-funded education system is failing students,” said one of the parents, Beth Wyatt.
The formal complaint also notes that Gov. Newsom’s policies particularly hurt “disadvantaged students” who need extra attention and help from teachers and school districts to maintain a good education.
“All three of my children have experienced adverse effects from the current distance learning model that has been mandated by our local schools,” Wyatt said. “All of my children were straight-A students before distance learning began. This spring my children received a “P” for all subjects, causing them to lose all motivation and desire to excel in school.”
“They are frustrated to tears over the lack of instruction. They are upset trying to navigate poor connectivity to get through their assigned online curriculum. My son is on anxiety medication for the first time in his life,” she added.
Freedom Foundation wrote in a statement that even though COVID-19 transmission rates are proven to be low among children and younger students, the governor insists on implementing rules that are harming students and preventing them from achieving a good education.
“Governor Newsom has repeatedly told us to ‘trust the science’,” said Freedom Foundation attorney Mariah Gondeiro. “It is time for Newsom to take his own advice. Thousands of educators, parents and even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say students need to be in school.”
The formal complaint also alleges that “even though Shasta County is not on the [COVID-19] watchlist,” local officials have mandated that students can only go to school part-time.
“Unfortunately, keeping kids home seems to be more politics than science,” the Freedom Foundation stated, citing Los Angeles’s Health Director Barbara Ferrer’s recent comments that schools would not “realistically” be reopened in her area until after the presidential election.
The full lawsuit demands a “declaratory judgment and injunctive relief” about the issue as well as a “jury trial.”