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Parents, Advocates Sue California Over Remote Learning Concern

Parents and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Monday against the state of California stating that it failed to meet a "constitutional obligation" to ensure equality in remote education during the coronavirus pandemic.

by Vanessa Arredondo, San Francisco Chronicle / December 1, 2020
S TNS

(TNS) — Parents and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Monday against the State of California stating that it failed to meet a "constitutional obligation" to ensure equality in remote education during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit — filed by seven California families and advocacy groups Community Coalition and The Oakland REACH — demanded that California be held accountable for the quality of education provided in under-served communities and that it allow parents to be at the center of a plan to address inequities across the state. Public Counsel, a nonprofit civil rights law firm, is representing the groups.

Advocates said education for Black and brown low-income students has typically failed to meet state requirements, but the pandemic further exacerbated and shined a light on the inequalities.

"The impact of the pandemic on California's most vulnerable students has been to deny them in far too many instances even the semblance of an education, dramatically widening an already indefensible opportunity gap with their more privileged counterparts," said  Mark Rosenbaum , the director of Public Counsel's Opportunity Under Law Project.

"Remote learning may not be preventable but the remoteness of California officials to the desperate educational needs of its children is," he said.

Following stay-at-home orders in March, schools across California shut down and began offering fully remote instruction. With the sudden shift to online learning, students and families began experiencing a slew of challenges they had not experienced before, including: lack of internet connectivity and access to electronic devices, ineffective remote instruction, and little to no academic or mental health support.

Nine months later, most children in the state were enrolled in distance learning programs, and parents said the challenges continued.

Lakisha Young , the co-founder and executive director of the Oakland REACH — a parent-run group that advocates for high-quality schools in under-served communities — said local community groups have had to step in provide that missing support.

California schools have failed to educate Black and Brown families for decades and COVID-19 and remote learning have proved to be no different," Young said. "The system failed to act... that's why we're demanding California give families like ours the power we've always lacked and long-deserved."

(c)2020 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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