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CA State Superintendent Tony Thurmond. (Photo: CDE press conference)

California Sued By Parents Over Remote Learning Inequalities

Lawsuit says that California has not given equal education to all public school students

By Evan Symon, December 3, 2020 2:20 am

Earlier in the week, a group of seven Los Angeles and Alameda County families sued the California Board of Education, the Department of Education, and state Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Thurmond over accusations of not giving students in the state adequate education due to the long-term remote learning measures taken by schools in California since March.

According to the lawsuit, remote learning has put an undue burden on parents and guardians, especially on low-income families who have poor internet service or don’t have a reliable computer to use. The lawsuit also charges that parents have had to take up the slack from the schools shortfalls, acting as educators for their children and having to pay for all of the associated extra costs usually provided by schools. The suit argued further that these shortfalls had effected minority students, in particular black and Hispanic students, the most.

“Because of the State’s inadequate response, parents and grandparents have had to become tutors, counselors, childminders, and computer technicians, and they have had to find a way to pay for what are now basic school supplies — laptop/tablets, paper, printing, and internet access,” noted the lawsuit that was filed Monday. “California has offered families no training, support, or opportunity to provide input into plans for remote learning, the eventual return to in-person instruction, or the delivery of compensatory education.

“For many families, a single room is now a multi-grade classroom as well as a workplace for several adults. For students without homes, school is now wherever they can find an internet connection. The change in the delivery of education left many already-underserved students functionally unable to attend school. The State continues to refuse to step up and meet its constitutional obligation to ensure basic educational equality or indeed any education at all.”

The families serving as plaintiffs in the case come largely from virtual learning non-profit groups such as the Los Angeles-based Community Coalition and Oakland-based REACH. They are being represented in the suit by the law firms of Public Counsel, a non-profit, and Morrison & Foerster.

“The impact of the pandemic on California’s most vulnerable students has been to deny them in far too many instances even the semblance of an education, dramatically widening an already indefensible opportunity gap with their more privileged counterparts,” said Public Counsel lawyer Mark Rosenbaum. “Remote learning may not be preventable but the remoteness of California officials to the desperate educational needs of its children is.”

Meanwhile, the defendants, all California state education entities and officials, have said that the measures have been taken in the interest of public health and that, at this time, even more stringent measures to protect students and staff from the spread of COVID-19 is not enough to justify reopening schools, despite most private schools having been reopened this semester in the state.

“Throughout the pandemic this administration has taken important actions to protect student learning while also taking necessary steps to protect public health. We will defend our position in court,” explained Jesse Melgar, a spokesman for Governor Newsom.

A need for better in-person education vs. a public health crisis

Education experts have been largely on school reopenings in California, with many favoring health protections and the reduction of COVID-19 spread, and others being in support or reopenings due to the long-term detrimental effects that remote learning has on the education of children.

“There are a lot of plusses and minuses on each side of the argument,” said Alicia Moreno Lopez, a counselor who helps children transition from public to private or home schooling, to the Globe. “But in the end it comes down to public health or education. Sadly, we can’t have both right now. A lot of educators know that the vaccines are coming and are willing to stick it out, but parents don’t want to start all of this over after winter break. We don’t want to spread COVID, but we also don’t want to hurt the long-term prospects of our children.

“The lawsuit is putting that question out there and throwing in surrounding factors such as economic status, school location, and even the notion that internet should now be treated as an essential service or even a utility. Plus it’s also highlighting all the services schools provide, like free lunches, that parents are now stuck with. Teachers, teacher unions, school officials, students, parents, parent’s groups, and taxpayers are all saying different things here, but it all really comes down to public health or education. There have been lawsuits earlier than this one, and if the pandemic continues long into next year, you can bet we’ll have more too.”

As the lawsuit specifically asked for a jury trial, a court date is expected sometime early next year in the Superior Court of Alameda.

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6 thoughts on “California Sued By Parents Over Remote Learning Inequalities

  1. In other word, the parents are complaining that they now have to act like parents. You know, like having to make the kids study, coordinate with other parents, cook meals, turn off the TV, read a book with them, take them to the park, and so on. You know, plan, sacrifice and take personal (and financial) responsibility for one’s offspring.

    And as for not having a computer or internet access, that’s doubtful at best inasmuch as the latter is practically free at any Walmart/discount store/thrift store/repair shop, and the former comes bundled with their cable access. (And yes, it’s true the latter can be a bit iffy if you’re in a rural area, but most people are not.)

    Yes this is unsympathetic, but the real take from all this is that, for the first time in their lives, a lot of these complaining parents are faced with the actual responsibilities and realities of being a parent vs fobbing it all off on some some governmental agency/baby-sitting service. And they don’t like it because, well, it’s “hard.”

    Of course it’s hard. It’s called being a “Parent.” Welcome to real life.

    Just a thought.


    1. Perhaps parents ought to get a salary or a tax deduction for doing the job of the education system they pay for.

  2. I thank God with all my heart for helping me to home school my daughter years ago, who graduated a year early with a 3.8 GPA, and after volunteering at a public library at 15, because she loved to read, was offered an LSA job. I thank God for helping us to afford all the Christian school supplies we needed, never asking our government for any money, because their charter school $ rules don’t include God. We saved our state thousands of $ those 11 years, as public schools received about $11,495 per student (in 2016), but were still threatened by senators saying homeschooling was illegal, when it really wasn’t. They only care about the money, as our system is a complete mess, especially since taking God out of schools in 1962. The Bible, God’s word is the most important book in the world, for us to know how to live and be, as He created us in His image, after forming the mountains, oceans, plants, animals, trees,etc., in the beginning (Genesis). Praying for all and to God be ALL the glory! Revelation 14:7, “Fear God and give glory to Him for the hour of His judgment has come.” Nahum 1:3, “The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked: The LORD hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet.” Psalms 148:8, “Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling His word:”

  3. The teachers union has ruined its reputation in the eyes of parents all over the nation. It is a political organization now and has harmed teachers and the children screaming for money and resources. How many times does the CDC have to say that children are not at risk for getting COVID and there is no risk of giving it to the teachers or taking it home.? All these studies backed up these facts from Europe earlier and now we have our own saying the same thing. Safest job in the country is being a teacher. An11 year committed suicide last week over the shutdown and countless other were abused and unfed and learned nothing this past 9 months.

  4. Public School is child abuse of the worst kind because they aim to not only make your kid ignorant but to pervert their soul! Home school or private school if you care about your kids.

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