October 24, 2021


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

San Francisco sues school district over COVID reopening

San Francisco resorted to the “drastic step” of suing its own school district Wednesday to try to force the reopening of public schools for in-person learning.

“It’s a shame it has come to this,” said City Atty. Dennis Herrera, whose office is seeking an emergency order to compel the district to act.

“The Board of Education and the school district have had more than 10 months to roll out a concrete plan to get these kids back in school,” Hererra added.” So far they have earned an F.”

While it’s extremely rare for a California city to sue one of its school districts, Mayor London Breed has been publicly chastising local education leaders for months about keeping public schools closed while private ones have reopened. The litigation comes as Southern California pediatricians are calling on Los Angeles County to immediately reopen campuses closed during the pandemic, despite reservations by some public health scientists.

The dispute became particularly heated when the district spent months on efforts to rename dozens of schools with alleged associations with oppression and racism, soliciting new names for schools called after George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and even Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“I know this is a drastic step,” Breed said Wednesday, announcing the lawsuit, “but I feel we are out of options at this point.”

The mayor noted that the renaming of more than 40 schools has captured national attention — much of it scornful — in part because it has occurred while schools have been closed. It was a point she has made repeatedly over the last several months.

“In the midst of this once-in-a-century challenge, to hear that the district is focusing energy and resources on renaming schools — schools that they haven’t even opened — is offensive,” Breed said in October. She said she believed in equity, “but the fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our city.”

Herrera, whose office filed the suit, said: “It’s a shame it has come to this.”

He suggested the litigation might force the district and teacher unions to hammer out an agreement to reopen schools, which have been shuttered since March.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, called the reopening plan by the school district woefully inadequate and out of compliance with requirements set by the state, including a mandate “to offer classroom-based instruction whenever possible.” Herrera’s office will seek a preliminary injunction next week to force the district to prepare for in-person instruction.

Breed has no direct control over the school district, which is run by an independently elected school board, but as the leader of the city, she has been criticized for the school closures. The city has offered the district help with testing and inspections to get in-person learning started.

“While I don’t control the schools,” Breed said Wednesday, “I am the elected leader of the city and I am not going to stand by” while kids suffer.