Judge rules that private school in California must stop in-person classes

Sept. 16, 2020
Court injunction says Immanuel Schools in Reedley, Calif., is not following the health and safety guidelines with regard to Covid-19.

A private school in California that has flouted state and county health orders during the coronavirus pandemic must immediately stop in-person teaching, a Fresno County judge has ruled.

The Fresno Bee reports that Judge D. Tyler Tharpe in a 10-page decision granted Fresno County’s request for a preliminary injunction against Immanuel Schools in Reedley, Calif.

“Immanuel Schools and Ryan Wood (superintendent), as well as their respective officers, employees, agents, representatives, members, volunteers and all persons acting under, in concert with, or for them must immediately cease and desist from conducting, participating in or attending in-person class instruction at the Immanuel Schools property...,” the judge wrote.

School officials issued a statement that they are disappointed with the judge’s decision and will continue their fight to remain open.

The county has accused Immanuel Schools of violating the state’s health order that prohibits Fresno County schools and those in other counties from returning to the classroom until they are off the state’s Covid-19 monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.

Immanuel Schools disagreed with the order, citing constitutional protections. They reopened their K-12 schools last month, and the county promptly filed a temporary injunction on Aug. 25 to try to shut them down.

Tharpe ruled against the county, saying it did not provide enough proof of irreparable harm. Although the county lost that decision, it moved forward with its request for a preliminary injunction.

County Counsel Daniel Cederborg argued that allowing the faith-based school to remain open is creating the potential for a health crisis.

Judge Tharpe agreed.

“In their original Opposition, defendants argued that ‘the County would not suffer irreparable harm’ should an injunction be denied," the judge wrote. "The evidence is to the contrary. The evidence presented by the County amply supports a finding that the County and its residents are under the threat of irreparable harm should defendants be allowed to conduct in-person classroom instruction while the County and its residents are in the throes of the Covid-l9 pandemic.".

Immanuel school officials have said their school community is not a threat to the rest of the county because they have herd immunity, based on a study done by one of the school’s parents, a pathologist.

The school also alleges that in the five weeks they have been open they have not had a single case of coronavirus.

Cederborg has disputed the study and said the school does not test on a regular basis, so they wouldn’t know who is infected with the virus.

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