California Mothers Sue California Gov. Newsom, Saying His Partial Reopening of Schools Hurts Special Needs Students, Causes Anxiety Over Grades


Four mothers have filed a lawsuit against California Gov. Gavin Newsom over his coronavirus education plan, claiming adverse effects including anxiety over poor grades and lack of special education access.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 10 in Shasta County Superior Court by the Freedom Foundation on behalf of the northern California families. The complaint is available here.

The plaintiffs allege the plan that requires students to be in classes part-time denies them their constitutional right to a quality education as enshrined in the California Constitution.

Other defendants are Xavier Becerra, California attorney general; Sandra Shewry, state public health director; Tony Thurmond, state education director; Jim Cloney, superintendent of the Shasta Union High School District; Mindy DeSantis, superintendent of Millville Elementary School District; and Brian Winstead, superintendent of Enterprise Elementary School District.

This is far from the only lawsuit over education and COVID-19.

A group of southern California parents also recently sued Newsom over similar claims, although that case is built on federal law.

Following last spring’s initial shutdown of schools, there were lawsuits filed in three states over lack of access to special education services, Education Week reported in July. Those states were Hawaii, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Last month, attorneys for an anonymous middle school student sued the Upper Arlington City Schools district in Ohio, WSYX said. The suit was based on the decision to allow only some special needs students to return to classrooms while the remainder will have to take online learning.

Parents sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district in North Carolina to force schools to place children in classrooms, WCNC reported.

Mariah Gondeiro, attorney for the Freedom Foundation, told Star News that their northern California case is based on the state constitution, which she said she believes offers broader protections for students than the other case in California. Shasta County also has a lower coronavirus case count than Los Angeles County, she said.

Beth Watt, one of the mothers working with the Freedom Foundation, said in a statement, “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,” Watt said. “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. 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.”

Gondeiro said, “Governor Newsom has repeatedly told us to ‘trust the science’. It is time for Newsom to take his own advice. Thousands of educators, parents and even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics say students need to be in school.”

The CDC’s statement on the need to reopen schools is available here.

Gondeiro said there have been numerous studies conducted worldwide that reveal children are not COVID-19 transmitters.

The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment stating that Newsom’s policy violates the rights of all California students and an order preventing it from being enforced.

The Freedom Foundation also mentioned it believes the push to keep students at home is politically motivated. The group cited an audio clip of Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer, who was captured on a hot mic saying she would not allow schools to reopen until after the November election. That clip is available on YouTube here.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.




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