Parents are suing a Los Angeles school district and its teachers’ union, claiming social distancing distress.
Families have filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and its teachers’ union (UTLA) for continued school closures during the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve alleged their children have suffered “emotionally and academically due to the inability to be in the classroom.”
The lawsuit states, “There is no reason Plaintiffs’ children should have to suffer through shorter school days with limited instructional hours and/or two- or three-day-per-week on campus distance learning models while other similarly situated students throughout California – and even in Los Angeles County – enjoy a full schedule of in-person learning five days per week. LAUSD schoolchildren and their families are suffering irreparable harm.”
The personal injury lawsuit is a first in the U.S., according to Timothy Snowball, an attorney with the Freedom Foundation who is representing the parents in their case. He said, “The scientific consensus is clear, schools can be reopened. Children like our clients in this lawsuit have been suffering needlessly because of the political demands of UTLA which have absolutely nothing not do with the health and safety of teachers or students.”
One mother, identified only by her initials, as plaintiff ‘CP,’ said her five-year-old son has regressed amid the school closures, explaining, “This whole year has been horrible. The whole distance learning is so terrible. She added, “I’m a liberal democrat, I’m in a union. The moment I peacefully advocated for my child’s education, they called me a white supremacist.” Of her son, “He hasn’t met his teacher, he’s never stepped foot on campus, and all he knows is this Zoom. We did it. We went into it with a great attitude, and just every day he had meltdowns and tantrums and was not wanting to do it. He was a somewhat social child, and it was creating a regression where he wasn’t social.”
Snowball said, “The children in this lawsuit were all outgoing kids; they were all socially active. They’ve gone from socially active, well-adjusted kids to in many cases being isolated in their bedrooms, addicted to their computers. In one case, one of our client’s children went from a theater arts program, and an outgoing kid, to now being suicidal and locked in his bedroom addicted to his computer.”
“I don’t think they realize we feel abandoned by them,” CP said. “Many of us that are involved in the reopening effort were the same parents that stood in the rain with them two years ago when they were on strike.”
Not all parents agree with the lawsuit, though, and especially its timing, so close to the end of the school year.
Parent Maggie Pulley, whose sixth grader at the Girls Academic Leadership Academy in Mid-Wilshire is in the hybrid model, said that the district’s plans are not ideal, but “I don’t think a lawsuit to push for reopening this school year, with so few weeks left, is worth the effort. My main focus is getting kids back to school in the fall full time. I would also love to see engaging summer school programming.”