A conservative attorney in California is leading a lawsuit against the state for strictly limiting in-person learning in schools scheduled to open over the next week.
Attorney Harmeet Dhillon accused Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom of violating his state’s residents’ “fundamental rights” under the Constitution during an interview on Fox News on Thursday. She said that Newsom’s rules over reopening schools, which evaluates COVID-19 spread on a county-by-county basis, violate residents’ 14th Amendment right to equal treatment under the law.
“If you have a right under the law, a fundamental right, protected right, and your ability to enjoy that right varies according to some arbitrary criteria like where you live,” that is unconstitutional, Dhillon said. “So you’re living, for example, on the border of a county that is on the bad list. The county next to you, right across the border … across the street even, is not on that list. The kid in the house across the street gets to have a quality education in-person and you don’t.”
A coalition of California parents are bringing the lawsuit, which includes testimony from experts such as Dr. Scott Atlas, the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford, and Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya, a professor of Medicine at Stanford University.
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo cleared all schools in his state to reopen for fall classes as long as they secure approval from New York’s Health and Education departments. Parents involved in the lawsuit against California are now asking Newsom to adopt a plan similar to Cuomo’s.
“Governor Gavin Newsom has set a dangerous precedent when he ordered that local school districts should not have the freedom to decide what’s best for their community when it comes to school openings. How is it that one man thinks he knows what’s best for more than 40 million people?” Erica Sephton, who has a daughter about to enter kindergarten, told The Daily Wire in a statement. “While Governor Cuomo has made his share of mistakes dealing with the Coronavirus, at least he recognizes that with a decision this important, there has to be meaningful input from the parents and local districts at the ground level.”
The Trump administration has pushed for the vast majority of schools to reopen across the United States, saying that the relative risk of the coronavirus to children is far less than the risks posed to their emotional, mental, and physical health should they be barred from returning to school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have backed up the Trump administration’s claims.
“The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus,” CDC guidance says.
The push to reopen schools has largely been resisted by elected Democrats and teachers’ unions. Critics of reopening claim that schools should not be opened back up for full, in-person learning until they can guarantee social distancing measures such as six feet of space between students, a virtually impossible task for most schools.