The fight escalated between the city of San Francisco and top public school officials Tuesday after additional charges were filed against the Board of Education and the San Francisco Unified School District in a last-ditch effort to get schools reopened for in-person teaching.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera added three charges to the lawsuit he launched last week after the school board and teachers union announced they had reached a plan to reopen schools in waves Monday.
In the newly formed deal, teachers and school staff agreed to return to school only after they have received the coronavirus vaccine, while San Francisco remains in the red-tier classification. And only after the city reaches the less-restrictive orange-tier classification will teachers agree to hit the classrooms without having received a vaccination first.
But Herrera said the agreement – prompted by his lawsuit challenging that the school board and union have had ample time to set up a policy on how to reopen classrooms – is not good enough.
“We’re pleased the school district and its unions finally seem to be making some progress on reopening, but it’s not nearly enough,” Herrera said in a statement Tuesday. “There are more questions than answers at this point.”
The city’s suit alleges that the Board of Education and the district have had 10 months to comprise their plan, but have instead focused on renaming 44 schools they believed were offensive – a plan that could cost between $400,000 and $1 million to change uniforms, insignias and school signs.
The suit also notes that since September 2020, over 110 private schools in the city, along with 90% of all public and private schools in neighboring Marin County have reopened – with less than 15 cases of in-school virus transmission having been reported.
“The reality is 54,000 public school children are suffering across our city,” Herrera said. “Just sticking with the status quo and hoping the district came up with an effective plan wasn’t working.”
The city attorney, who is expected to file a motion on Feb. 11 requesting the court issue an emergency order, extended the lawsuit 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 costly private schools have thus far reopened – and violating the state’s law to “offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.”
If Herrera’s emergency order is accepted, the school board and district would be forced to act prior to the lawsuit’s conclusion.
“All children in California have a right to attend a public school and to be treated equally, regardless of their wealth,” Herrera said. “That is not happening in San Francisco right now, where SFUSD’s own data show the achievement gap is widening.”
“The educational damage caused by remote learning – particularly for low-income students – is likely to have severe and lifelong consequences,” he continued. “We need to fix this situation before things get worse.”
The San Francisco Board of Education could not be immediately reached by Fox News for comment.