June 15, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

L.A. councilman wants to sue L.A. schools to reopen

Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino announced Thursday that he will ask the city to go to court to force campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District to reopen for in-person instruction.

Campuses have been closed in the nation’s second largest school system since March in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Buscaino said he plans to submit a resolution next week, for consideration by the full council, that would direct the city attorney to file a lawsuit modeled on one announced this week by San Francisco officials, who have initiated litigation against the San Francisco Unified School District.

The action is justified, said Buscaino, based on a growing body of research assembled by federal experts, the policy of the Biden administration aimed at reopening schools and the great harm to students pursuing their studies remotely from home.

Buscaino said he also was influenced by a statement this week from the Southern California affiliate of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which called for an immediate reopening of schools.

“I actually agree with the pediatricians,” Buscaino told The Times. “I support the science that says it’s safe for students to return to schools. Let’s get the adults out of the way, the politics out of the way.”

Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that campuses can safely reopen even if teachers are not vaccinated against COVID-19 — provided that schools strictly adhere to safety protocols.

The CDC has generally endorsed efforts to reopen campuses, but during the Trump administration this message became tied up in political considerations.

The advent of the Biden administration restores a level of trust that federal officials are trying to do the right thing — and are guided by data and science, Buscaino said.

While expert opinion leans toward the conclusion that campuses can be operated safely during the pandemic, the views are far from unanimous.

Teacher unions, especially in California, are pressing for vaccinations for school staff as a precondition for reopening campuses. And some say that measure may not be enough to safely reopen when the virus is spiking to especially dangerous levels.

The California Teachers Assn. on Wednesday said teachers who return to classrooms should have immediate access to inoculation.

The councilman, who is married to a public school teacher and has two children in public schools, said he supports giving higher priority to teachers for vaccines. But he doesn’t want immunization to be prerequisite for reopening.

Buscaino’s district stretches from south of downtown from Watts to the Harbor area.