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Parents Sue District over Alleged Online Learning Deficiencies

Follow this story and others with SoCal journalists on "Reporter Roundup" for Sep. 24, 2020.


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Nine parents of Los Angeles Unified children filed a proposed class-action lawsuit today alleging that the district's plans for distance learning are inadequate and violate students' rights to a basic public education under the state constitution.

The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint, announced during a news conference at the County Courthouse, also alleges that minority students, particularly Blacks and Latinos, are disproportionately impacted.

The LAUSD released a statement regarding the suit.

“Los Angeles Unified has not been served with a lawsuit,” the statement read. “However, many of the challenges society faces present themselves in schools, including the impact of COVID-19. School districts like Los Angeles Unified have to balance the sometimes-conflicting priorities of the learning needs of students and the health and safety of all in the school community.”

Since school closed in March, Los Angeles Unified has been “working to bridge the digital divide ensuring all students have devices and access to the Internet,” the statement went on.

But according to the suit, during the spring semester LAUSD engaged only 36% of students in daily online learning and the district's engagement of Black students, Latino students, English language learners and pupils with disabilities was notably worse.

The suit alleges that LAUSD's plan for the fall semester continues much of the harm from the spring by providing students with nearly 60% less live learning time and access to their teachers. LAUSD is allowing for the least amount of learning time with teachers out of the state's five largest districts, some of which are providing more than twice as much learning time with their teachers and classmates than the LAUSD, the suit says.

Experts contacted by the families' attorneys found there is a “real and present danger for LAUSD students,” particularly the most vulnerable, said plaintiffs' attorney Sierra Elizabeth.

Elizabeth said the suit asks that conditions be returned to where they were before the coronavirus, when teachers were working eight hours instead of six and being given more professional development time.

She said the plaintiffs will seek a preliminary injunction that could be heard within two weeks. The suit states the injunction seeks to enjoin the LAUSD “from further depriving plaintiffs of their constitutional rights.”

Plaintiff Keshara Shaw said in a sworn declaration that online teaching has been confusing for her son.

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“Throughout distance learning, my son's teacher continued to post material on two different sites,” Shaw said. “Some assignments were given out of physical books that we had picked up from the school, but most were online. As a result, it was unclear which materials were assigned, which were due when and where materials could be accessed.”

Another plaintiff, Josue Ricardo Gastelum-Campista, said in a declaration that his son did not have any live video instruction and was assigned only two or three homework assignments during the three months of distance learning.

“This is significantly less than he received before the pandemic, where he spent eight hours per day at school and received an average of two or three hours of homework every night,” he said.

Plaintiff Judith Larson, the mother of a daughter starting the seventh grade at South Gate Middle School, said in a declaration that the teachers seemed lazy in their approach to lessons.

“It did not appear to me that any of the course work offered to my daughter in any of the core subject matters were the result of any effort put in by the teachers to prepare the educational materials,” Larson said.

Top Image: East College Prep High School senior Jocelyn Hernandez follows a remote Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus class as her cousin plays with his phone while sitting in a community garden near her homein the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images.

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