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City of San Francisco sues school district to force local schools to reopen

Feb. 3, 2021
City officials argue that keeping schools closed is hurting kids’ well-being; school district leaders call the litigation unhelpful.

The city of San Francisco is suing the San Francisco Unified School District as it tries to get public school students to return to classrooms for in-person instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press reports that the lawsuit is the first of its kind in California as school systems come under increasing pressure from parents and politicians to end virtual learning. Teachers unions in many large school districts, including San Francisco, say they won’t go back to classrooms until they are receive vaccinations to protect them from Covid-19.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, with support from Mayor London Breed, said he sued the school system as a last resort to salvage what’s left of the academic year. They argue that it’s safe to reopen schools and keeping them closed is hurting kids’ well-being.

"Not a single San Francisco public school student has set foot in their classroom in 347 days,” Herrera says.. “More than 54,000 San Francisco schoolchildren are suffering. They are being turned into Zoom-bies by online school. Enough is enough.”

The lawsuit shines a light on the growing tension and infighting nationwide between politicians who insist it is safe to return to schools with proper safety precautions and teachers who are on the front lines and have worries about their health and safety.

The lawsuit says school administrators are violating a state requirement that districts adopt a clear plan “to offer classroom-based instruction whenever possible” during the pandemic. It seeks a court order to require schools to prepare to offer in-person instruction and file a detailed plan, Herrera said.

School administrators called the lawsuit an embarrassment.

“This isn’t helpful,” says Vincent Matthews, San Francisco's superintendent. “We’re all in this San Francisco pandemic bubble together, and turning on us is not helpful whatsoever.”

Matthews says the school board and district administrators have been “feverishly working toward and fighting for and pushing for the return of students to in-person learning” and that they “absolutely have a comprehensive plan” for reopening.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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