The lawsuit filed against the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) by city officials gained steam Thursday when City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed an emergency order asking the court to take an immediate role in reopening the public school system.
“SFUSD has kept public schools in San Francisco closed for more than 330 days, even though health officials have allowed schools in San Francisco to be open for in-person instruction since September,” the City Attorney’s office said in a statement following the injunction.
Herrera filed a lawsuit last week in a last-ditch effort to force the Board of Education and school district to devise a plan to get San Francisco’s 54,000 students back into classrooms for in-person teaching.
“Distance learning is not the same thing as school, not even close,” Herrera said. Adding that “almost a year of being isolated from classmates, friends and teachers is taking a terrifying toll on these kids.”
Herrera expanded his lawsuit Tuesday, to include allegations of violating students’ rights to attend public schools under the state’s Constitution, discriminating against students on the basis of wealth – as only the city’s private schools have reopened – and violating the state’s law to “offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.”
The suit states that over 110 private schools have reopened with more than 15,800 students having returned to the classroom, but so far, fewer than five cases of in-school virus transmission have been reported.
Herrera also pointed to the neighboring county of Marin, where 90% of all public and private schools have reopened their doors to in-person teaching, with just nine cases of in-school transmission having been confirmed.
“Mental health experts report that kids of all ages are experiencing severe mental health problems: depression, anxiety, self-harming behavior, suicidal thoughts. And yet, public schools in San Francisco remain shut,” Herrera said. “It’s unconscionable, it’s unlawful and it must end.”
The City Attorney’s office also pointed to data released by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital of Oakland, which has reported a 68 percent increase in the number of suicidal children being admitted to the emergency room. There has also been a 75 percent increase in the number of children seeking mental health assistance.
A spokesperson for the SFUSD told Fox News Thursday that they “wholeheartedly agree that students are better served with in-person learning.” But said that reopening schools is “very complex and requires partnership.”
“We are committed to continuing to work together with the City and labor unions to offer in-person learning options to students as soon as possible,” SFUSD spokesperson, Laura Dudnick said. We are eager for the City to make vaccines available to our staff.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that it is not necessary for all teachers to be vaccinated before being able to safely return to the classrooms.
But the teachers union said earlier this week that teachers will re-enter the classroom once they have all been vaccinated – a “plan” that San Francisco Mayor London Breed and the City Attorney’s office have taken issue with.
“Almost a year into this pandemic, it is simply unacceptable that parents and guardians haven’t been provided a date for when their kids will return to in-person learning,” Breed said in a statement Thursday. “Families are paralyzed, unable to plan for their future.”
“And they feel frustrated, especially as the School Board has made national headlines over efforts to rename many of the very same schools that they have no plan to actually reopen,” she added, alluding to the 44 schools the board decided were named after figures they deemed offensive, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
The renaming process is estimated to cost between $400,000 to $1 million to change school uniform, signs and equipment carrying the name.
Fox News could not immediately the San Francisco Board of Education.
A hearing on the motion is set for March 22.