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On July 28, the Orange County Board of Education voted 4-0 to sue Governor Gavin Newsom for his decision to close schools this year.
The board’s press release the very next day explained our rationale. Unfortunately, it appears we need a few more words to counter the misinformation of union leaders and some school officials.
The board acted because school closures have already produced severe harm to our children and community. First, we now know that broad-based distance-only learning is inferior – far inferior – to in-person instruction. Second, closing schools hinders children’s social development and nutrition, and raises the dark prospect of a rise in child abuse. The governor’s order will hurt all students, and these documented harms are falling disproportionately on poorer, disadvantaged, special needs, and minority students.
Despite the bizarre and unscientific claims of the county’s Superintendent of Education and his allies in government unions, the science on children and Covid-19 is clear: schools can reopen safely. That’s not just our belief. It is the conclusion of every major medical organization in the country. From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institutes of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and the California Department of Education (CDE), the conclusions are clear: the benefits of reopening our schools outweigh the risks. To deny that isn’t science. It’s pure and dangerous politics.
Despite the certainty of the science, the board has also recognized the right of parents to make the final decision about their children’s return to in-person learning. Only parents, considering their own family circumstances, have a right to make that decision. Some may opt for distance learning, and in this unique environment, they must have that option. They cannot, however, be granted veto power over parents who will undoubtedly choose to send their children to school.
Our children have a constitutional right to an adequate education. That right is violated when the governor and state health officials close schools. That constitutional violation is precisely the reason the Orange County Board of Trustees has pursued a legal remedy to open schools to classroom instruction.
In pursuing a legal solution to this violation, we want to be clear that our lawsuit against the governor will not cost taxpayers anything. The board and the people of Orange County are being represented by legal counsel on a pro bono basis. The superintendent and his allies in teachers and other unions know this is true and yet chose – and continue to choose – to say precisely the opposite. One can only wonder about their motives in misrepresenting science and the law.
Ken Williams is president and Mari Barke is vice president of the Orange County Board of Education.
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