California Parents Sue Governor Over In-Person School Ban

By Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist and a recognized expert in left-wing activism.
September 15, 2020Updated: September 15, 2020

A group of California parents who claim their children are being harmed by the state’s pandemic-related restrictions on in-person educational instruction are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom over the ban.

The new lawsuit, cited as Looney v. Newsom, was filed in the Shasta County office of the Superior Court of the State of California. Shasta County is north of Sacramento, the state capital.

The parents claim in the legal proceeding that Democrat Newsom’s policies “unjustifiably prevent schools in Shasta County from fully reopening,” and that students “require services and resources that cannot be delivered remotely.”

They claim the state’s response to the CCP virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, “prevents students, especially the disadvantaged, from accessing a quality education,” and that students are being denied “their constitutional right to a quality education as enshrined in the California Constitution.”

These policies “not only violate this constitutional right but impair students’ ability to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for success in our competitive economy, and to be informed citizens and productive members of society.”

Beth Watt, a parent and plaintiff in the lawsuit, spelled out her concerns in a statement provided by the Freedom Foundation, which is representing the parents. Formerly known as the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, the Freedom Foundation describes itself as a “non-profit think and action tank with offices in Washington, Oregon, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.” It describes its mission as “working to reverse the stranglehold government unions have on our state and local policymaking.”

“All three of my children have experienced adverse effects from the current distance learning model that has been mandated by our local schools,” Watt said. “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.” (“P” refers to “Pass” in a “Pass-Fail” grading system.)

“They are frustrated to tears over the lack of instruction,” she 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.”

Attorney Mariah Gondeiro, who is acting in the case, weighed in.

“Governor Newsom has repeatedly told us to ‘trust the science,’” she said.

“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 fact situation upon which the lawsuit rests dates back to springtime.

On May 4, Newsom issued Executive Order N-60-20, “requiring Californians to obey all state and local public health directives and orders, including the California Department of Public Health’s guidance for schools.”

Then, on July 17, Newsom unveiled a framework for when and how schools should reopen for in-person instruction during the current pandemic.

“In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open—and when it must close—but learning should never stop,” he said at the time. “Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”

All schools—both public and private—in counties with increasing numbers of CCP virus cases aren’t allowed to conduct in-person classes, and must meet strict criteria before being allowed to reopen. California reportedly has 6.7 million students in its 1,000 school districts.

Officials in Newsom’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment about the lawsuit.

At least one other suit has been filed against the governor in response to the policy.

One, called Brach v. Newsom, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, on July 29.

“The negative effects of keeping schools closed far outweigh the risks of opening them,” said Jesse Petrilla, a father of two boys and a plaintiff in the suit, as reported by NBC News.

Prominent attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon, founder and CEO of The Center for American Liberty, is representing the parents.