Nov 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Families sue California over remote learning pandemic measures

Photo of a drawing with a young student working on their laptop in the background

A student works on his laptop in his socially distanced protective learning pod at a remote learning hub in Culver City, California. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty

Seven families filed a lawsuit in California Monday, alleging that the state has failed to ensure "basic educational equality" during the pandemic, which has forced millions of students into remote learning.

Why it matters: Remote learning puts students of color and low-income students at greater disadvantages, reports show. As the U.S. continues to debate the issue of reopening schools, it's the marginalized students who are suffering the costs.

The big picture: In the court filing, the plaintiffs claim the state refuses to "step up and meet its constitutional obligation" to ensure equal education for underserved students such as Black and Latino students from low-income backgrounds.

  • Per the suit, shifting to remote learning in March meant some students now have to work in a single room with other family members. Students without homes might not be able to access internet at all.
  • Their lack of access to "the devices, connectivity, adaptive technologies and other digital tools necessary for remote education" puts them at higher risk of falling behind their more privileged peers, according to court documents.
  • Other barriers to learning include "difficulty getting devices and software to work, absence of academic or mental health supports, English language barriers and unmet needs for students experiencing homelessness."
  • Even if reopening schools isn’t possible, plaintiffs say, the state still needs to meet its obligation to create equal opportunity for all students.

Context: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) tightened restrictions this month, creating more challenges for school districts looking to reopen.

Go deeper: The COVID-19 learning cliff

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