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Judge’s Order In North County School Reopening Lawsuit Applies Statewide

Four students sitting at desks 6 feet apart as a teacher guides them through ...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Four students sitting at desks 6 feet apart as a teacher guides them through a lesson at Lafayette Elementary School in Clairemont Mesa on Oct. 13, 2020.

A San Diego County judge's ruling that blocked the state from enforcing pandemic-related school reopening provisions applies to all school districts in the state, a parents' group said Friday.

The Parent Association of North County San Diego won a round in court on Monday when Superior Court Judge Cynthia Freeland sided with the group in its lawsuit against state officials and granted a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of several rules the plaintiffs alleged unfairly prevented school districts from reopening for in-person learning.

The plaintiffs allege several provisions outlined in the state's January reopening framework place arbitrary restrictions on school districts, such as one requirement that students be spaced four feet apart in the classroom and other rules that allowed elementary schools from opening sooner than middle or high schools.

Freeland stated in Monday's ruling that the state's guidelines have "had and will continue to have a real and appreciable impact on the affected students' fundamental California right to basic educational equality."

While she said the state does have a compelling interest in stemming the spread of COVID-19, she ruled that the January 2021 framework "is selective in its applicability, vague in its terms and arbitrary in its prescriptions."

Following Monday's order prohibiting enforcement of the rules, attorneys reconvened Wednesday at the request of state attorneys seeking clarification on whether Freeland's order applies throughout California or solely to local school districts.

In a revised ruling, Freeland confirmed the statewide applicability of the order.

"The harm to our students from these over-restrictive rules extends statewide, so there is no question that the order preventing further harm should extend statewide, as well," said Scott Davison, legislative affairs director of the Parent Association and co-counsel in the lawsuit.

The parties are set to reconvene April 1 for a hearing on a preliminary injunction


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