The California Supreme Court has rejected a request which seeks to compel the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide in-person instruction and other services to students who have been most disadvantaged by distance learning.
The petition was filed last month on behalf of two Los Angeles-based children’s advocacy groups, Alliance for Children’s Rights and Learning Rights Law Center. In it, they argued that students with disabilities, English learners, and others struggling with online learning should receive in-person and small-group instruction “to the greatest extent possible” according to county health guidelines. during the coronavirus pandemic.
They also sought to compel the nation’s second-largest school district to resume in-person special education assessments and other services set forth in the individualized student education plan and provide necessary accommodations in a distance learning environment.
The court’s decision to reject the petition, including a request for precautionary measures, was issued on Wednesday, January 20 without a written opinion.
Alex Romain, lead attorney for the advocacy groups, called the court’s decision a “profound disappointment” affecting thousands of students.
“These students are unable to access education online, they have been without significant access to education since March 2020 and now they will likely miss the entire 2020-21 school year,” Romain said in a statement, calling the situation a “ catastrophe in slow motion ”.
LAUSD has not responded to a request for comment.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, who was named a defendant in the petition along with the school district, has repeatedly said that students learn best in a classroom. However, the district has never allowed the maximum number of students to return to campus for in-person instruction and services as allowed by the county, citing concerns about health and safety during the pandemic.
The district had already provided some small group and individualized services to some of its most needy students in the fall, but those measures were suspended in mid-December due to an increase in coronavirus cases.
Subsequently, the county public health director encouraged all K-12 campuses to remain closed until January, though he didn’t order it, the Los Angeles Times reported.