On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Education voted 4-0 to sue Governor Gavin Newsom and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Dr. Sonia Angell over new state rules stopping non-remote classes in counties with high numbers of new COVID-19 cases.
OC Board of Education sues over non-remote classes
Governor Newsom’s decision on the state COVID-19 county watch list being the deciding factor on which counties can or cannot reopen for in-school instruction led to Orange County schools being solely remote for at least the beginning of the fall semester. OC education officials were largely upset by rule, insisting that having school in classrooms was optimal, with students receiving a sub-standard education when not attending in person.
“We have made the decision to put the needs of our students first by filing this lawsuit,” said the OC School Board in a statement.
Board President Dr. Ken Williams elaborated in a separate statement about the Board’s decision.
“We understand the governor believes this is a difficult decision,” explained Board President Williams. “But we reviewed the data and came to the logical conclusion that our schools can reopen with risk-mitigating efforts and safeguards provided by the state and local public-health agencies.
“We believe that the benefits of reopening schools outweigh the potential harm of children not being in the classroom.”
Opponents to the Board’s decision in Orange County have pointed out that the Board cannot open or reopen schools, as that is a school district decision. Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares also pointed out that the Board’s latest decisions in not voting for mandatory masks or social distancing in OC schools and to sue the Governor are not based on health or safety reasons.
“I am disappointed by this latest legal action, but not surprised,” said Mijares in a statement on Wednesday. “This lawsuit continues the pattern of a highly litigious board majority that seems to have no qualms about diverting time, energy and financial resources from students and programs to satisfy their own ideological interests.
Remember that locally elected school boards and superintendents will continue to approve and implement their own plans based on the guidance of state and local public health agencies and the needs of their communities.”
State, Orange County remain at odds over school reopenings this fall
County residents and educators have been mixed on the issue, with many wanting health safety to remain a priority while also wanting children to return to school this fall.
“Orange County is a curious case because of how much residents have resisted state recommendations and orders,” explained education expert and polling advisor Dorothy Johnson-Hoffman in a California Globe interview. “They hit national attention only a few weeks ago by voting no on the mandatory face masks, now they’re doing it again by suing the Governor over closures.”
“Most people in Orange County want kids to go back, but also want them to remain safe and not spread the virus. And right now the state and the Board of Education are at odds over that.”
A lot of people just want to leave it to each district. Put in a waiver, let the district decide, and then socially distance and wear masks as a precaution. This is a compromise solution many districts are going for. If it comes to negotiating with the state over this, Orange County would have a little more to give up on the table with these decisions.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the state responds to this or if any other counties, like right leaning counties around the Bay area or around Los Angeles, join Orange in filing a lawsuit.”
Orange Counties schools, as of Wednesday, are still set to reopen next month completely remotely. The lawsuit is expected to be heard in front of a judge in the coming months.