The California Supreme rejected a petition on Wednesday that would have started reopening Los Angeles public schools for special needs students.
The petition, which was filed in December by child advocacy organizations the Alliance for Children’s Rights and the Learning Rights Law Center, wanted a return of in-class school for special needs students due to learning difficulties remotely. Both groups said that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) broke a state law that requires education agencies like school districts to have in-person classes and give “the appropriate resources to avoid learning loss, prevent behavioral regression, and protect students’ mental health and well-being.”
The organizations, as well as many parents, believed that the continued denial of in-person classes would lead to permanent harm on students with added difficulties, such as those with special needs, English language learners, and those with handicaps. Many parents even went further, saying that their children were not learning behind a screen.
“There is no question that severe learning loss has already occurred, is ongoing, and will lead to irreparable harm for these students,” the petition said. “This slow-motion catastrophe — with potentially irreversible and life-long negative consequences for students— can and should be immediately addressed. In-person instruction in small cohorts is possible as long as it is safe from a public health perspective.”
“They failed to provide the appropriate resources to avoid learning loss, prevent behavioral regression, and protect students’ mental health and well-being.”
As a remedy, the groups wanted as much in-person schooling to open up as soon as possible for those in the greatest of need. According to Los Angeles County public health guidelines, this would have meant that up to 25% of a school’s enrollment could have come back for in-person classes if the schools had met all COVID-19 public health and safety guidelines.
However, this was flatly rejected by the court, which did not even issue a written ruling on the matter. The denial will essentially let the LAUSD keep an all-remote class schedule into the near future. And due to continual high COVID-19 figures in LA County, even measures such as Governor Gavin Newsom’s $2 billion school reopening plan would not effect the district’s plans.
Many teachers even signaled relief following the Supreme Court’s denial.
“LA County has had over 3 million COVID-19 cases now, with 1 out of every 5 being tested coming up as positive,” Los Angeles teacher Natalia Baca told the Globe Thursday. “I agree that special needs students do deserve better instruction. All students do. But, right now, health is more important. We cannot risk reopening schools, even to a small extent, because there would still be a lot of people even if it was just for a few classes and a skeleton crew keeping everything going. You just need one person from any of their households to make it more spreadable.”
“It’s heartbreaking for us, but it’s like people being unable to see their families during Christmas or not being able to see sick loved ones. It’s necessary so more people don’t become infected. Or dead.”
Other attempts to bring back at least partial in-person classes to LA public schools remain ongoing.