San Francisco, CA

Judge rules San Francisco schools should remain closed

Jano le Roux

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A San Francisco judge rejected the city’s appeal for an immediate court order mandating that all students return by the end of April. Judge Ethan Schulman stated that many current events rendered the appeal moot. “We vehemently disagree with the court’s reasoning,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a tweet.

Preschool through fifth-graders, special education children, and disadvantaged older classes will be permitted to return to any form of in-person training beginning April 12.

The city settled a lawsuit in February. The district has no specific information about a return to school when Herrera first brought the lawsuit in early February. The school system is now unable to fulfill state mandates because it lacks an in-person instructional schedule for older students, lawyers say.

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On Thursday, a San Francisco Supreme Court judge rejected the city’s appeal for an immediate court order mandating that all students in all grades return by the end of April.

In his decision, Judge Ethan Schulman stated that many current events rendered the appeal moot, including the acceptance of a proposal to return younger students, as well as more fragile older students, to classrooms.

He also claimed that he was powerless to “dictate or oversee the District’s decisions regarding how to reopen a large public school system with over 50,000 students and nearly 10,000 teachers, staff, and administrators at 130 schools.”

“We vehemently disagree with the court’s reasoning,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a tweet, describing the ruling as disheartening.

Despite the fact that the San Francisco Unified School District settled the case, the unprecedented litigation created awareness about the topic of school reopening. The event, along with parent demonstrations, increased pressure on the district, which agreed to restore some kind of in-person learning in early March.

“It’s unfortunate that it took a lawsuit and a street rally to get the school district to focus on the most important thing — getting its students back in class,” Herrera said.

Preschool through fifth-graders, special education children, and disadvantaged older classes will be permitted to return to any form of in-person training beginning April 12 under an agreement negotiated between San Francisco’s district and its unions.

The order dismissing the preliminary injunction appeal, which was issued on Thursday, indicated that the decision not to approve the injunction was taken for a number of factors.

The city’s request to reopen all schools at all levels to the fullest degree allowed under state and local health provisions “would be both impermissibly vague and judicially unmanageable,” according to the order.

In a quote, Superintendent Vincent Matthews said, “This lawsuit has served as nothing more than a surface distraction from the work of safely returning San Francisco’s public school students to in-person learning.”

The district has no specific information about a return to school when Herrera first brought the lawsuit in early February.

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Attorneys representing the community protested at a hearing on Monday that the school system is now unable to fulfill state mandates because it lacks an in-person instructional schedule for older students. The counsel representing the district claimed that while district administrators were trying their utmost to recover as many students as possible, the complexities of restoring all students persisted. The district’s lawyers wrote in a brief submitted ahead of the hearing that “political grandstanding cannot render in-person learning any more ‘possible’ than it was” before the complaint was filed.

Herrera said during the meeting that he didn’t want to prosecute the school system, but that it was “sadly necessary.”

“The toll on families, our children’s mental health crisis, and the devastating learning loss are all too much,” he added.

“We swung for the fences in seeking this court order because San Francisco families deserved it,” Herrera said after the verdict was announced. We come up short, but the investigation isn’t finished.”

Photo Credits

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

Photo by kyo azuma on Unsplash

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

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