Lawsuit Challenges Governor's Order to Start School Year Online

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A conservative group called the Center for American Liberty is fighting the governor's distance learning mandate in court, claiming it’s ineffective and unconstitutional, and arguing school reopening plans should be left to teachers and parents.

“Bottom line, the governor needs to get out of the way” center CEO Harmeet Dhillon said.

Dhillon cites ineffective distance learning and concerns for equal access to education in a lawsuit filed against Governor Gavin Newsom.

“The studies we have seen out of pediatricians, one after the other have told me there is zero evidence of transmission of this disease from children to the teachers. OK, so that's one thing,” Dhillon said. “There are 0 deaths from COVID of children in the state."

Newsom recently ordered most schools in the state to continue the distance learning model they ended the last school year with until their counties can get a better handle on the spread of COVID-19.

Dhillon's right about the death statistics, according to the California Department of Health.

Their data shows there've been no deaths among anyone under the age of 17.

Facts surrounding transmission between ages are a little harder to come by, though. Sharp Rees-Stealy Family Medical Dr. Abi Olulade claims there is still a big enough risk to worry.

“We do know kids do transmit it, though there’s a low likelihood. They can transmit to teachers, and yes, their teachers can spread and transmit to the community and that could affect things," Olulade said.

Concerns over distance learning model were also presented in the lawsuit. One of the plaintiffs, a La Jolla mother with two school-age kids, said their doctor suggested limiting screen time to just two hours. That might not be enough time for a day’s worth of learning over the internet.

“Those guidelines of 2 hours are a little outdated,” Olulade said. “In children 5 years of age and older, what they're recommending is not a specific timeframe but they're recommending that the time for -- the content and the time in which they're participating in screen time should be more high quality content. So, in this case where it is geared toward their learning that does allow for more time."

The Center for American Liberty, which also fought the governor’s stay-at-home order, hopes the lawsuit will help reverse Newsom’s mandate and open school doors sooner.

“The government needs to do better,” Dhillon said. “I think that we can, in a state with a $100 billion budget of the schools, we can figure out how most of these kids and these teachers can be together safely in the classroom. And for those who could not, for their own physical or mental health reasons, they can not. They can do distance learning. Those options should be available."

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