Attorneys representing parents suing over the coronavirus-related ban on in-person schooling argued in their opening brief with an appellate panel that the “state’s disastrous experiment with so-called distance learning” has hit minority, poor and disabled students the hardest, according to court papers obtained Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed in July in Los Angeles federal court by the Center For American Liberty and the Dhillon Law Group, seeks to overturn Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on in-person learning, which the plaintiffs allege are unconstitutional and driven by a political agenda.
A Los Angeles federal judge granted an unprompted early judgment in favor of the defendants early last month, leaving public and private school facilities closed across most of the state, resulting in the center’s filing Monday with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The right to a basic minimum education is fundamental — it is deeply rooted in our nation’s history and traditions and inherent in the concept of ordered liberty — but the state’s disastrous experiment with so-called distance learning has deprived them of this basic right in violation of the due process clause,” according to the center’s opening brief.
“These hardships fell even more harshly on minority, poor, and disabled students. Online participation for these students was often less than 10%. The July 7 study by LAUSD found that Black and Latino students showed participation rates between 10 and 20 percentage points lower than white and Asian peers.”
On Dec. 30, Newsom announced a $2 billion “Safe Schools for All” plan to encourage more schools throughout the state to reopen for in-person instruction this year. Schools would only qualify in counties with lower infection rates. Kindergarten through sixth grade is prioritized in the phased-in proposal, which would need the California Legislature’s approval.
“The liberal elites running California continue to create two sets of rules — one of Michelin-starred dining and privilege that they enjoy and the other a massive shutdown that deprives children their right to an education, deprives the faith community the right to worship, and deprives small business owners their right to earn a living,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, CEO of the Center for American Liberty.
“That is why we are taking our lawsuit to reopen California schools to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to ensure that all children in California, regardless of their ZIP code, are afforded the same fundamental right to education.”