SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The city of San Francisco took a dramatic step on Wednesday to get children back into public classrooms and sued their own school district for trying to open doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit was the first of its kind in California, and possibly across the country, as school systems came under increasing pressure from parents and politicians to end virtual learning. Teacher unions in many major school districts, including San Francisco, say they will not return to classrooms until after vaccination.
Prosecutor Dennis Herrera, with the assistance of Mayor London Breed, announced that he had sued the San Francisco Board of Education and the San Francisco Unified School District as a last resort to save the remnants of the academic year. They say it is safe to reopen schools.
The school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Next up are the teachers for the COVID-19 vaccine, and some have started getting gunshots in rural areas.
“In 347 days not a single student at a public school in San Francisco set foot in his classroom,” Herrera said at a press conference, calling it shameful and also illegal. “More than 54,000 school children in San Francisco are suffering. The online school will turn them into zoom-bies. Enough is enough.”
The lawsuit alleges that school administrators are violating a government regulation requiring districts to adopt a clear plan to “offer classes in the classroom when possible” during the pandemic. The state says the plan needs to be in place, especially for students who have suffered significant learning loss due to school closings.
The lawsuit seeks a court order that schools must prepare to offer face-to-face tuition and submit a detailed “appropriate plan to show they are ready,” Herrera said.
According to a statement by Herrera, schools in San Francisco have been allowed to reopen since September. Nearly 90% of schools in neighboring Marin County, including public schools, have resumed face-to-face tuition, and 113 private and parish schools in San Francisco are open.
“This is not the path we would have chosen, but nothing is more important right now than getting our children back to school,” Breed said in the statement. “Our teachers have done an incredible job of providing distance learning support to our children, but that doesn’t work for anyone. And we know we can do it safely.”
Herrera said the district’s current plan was “ambiguous, empty rhetoric. It was a plan to create a plan. It was legally inadequate.”
“They’ve earned an F so far,” Herrera said, referring to the school district and its school board.
He plans to file a motion on Feb.11 asking the San Francisco Supreme Court to issue an emergency order. If so, the district would have to formulate a reopening plan following the order. The statement states that such emergency orders, also known as injunctions, can only come after a lawsuit has been filed.