Children’s Rights Groups Sue to Get LAUSD to Resume In-Person Learning for Special Needs Students

Children’s rights organizations Friday filed suit in California Supreme Court in a bid to force the Los Angeles Unified School District to resume in-person instruction for special needs students following the suspension of all such learning amid soaring COVID-19 case numbers.

In the petition, the Los Angeles nonprofits Alliance for Children’s Rights and Learning Rights Law Center contend that the LAUSD violated a state law that requires education agencies to offer in-person instruction and provide “the appropriate resources to avoid learning loss, prevent behavioral regression, and protect students’ mental health and well-being.”

A message seeking comment left with an LAUSD representative was not immediately answered.

On Monday, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner ordered a suspension of all in-person instruction and child-care program for the balance of the fall semester.

The petition was filed with the state’s highest court “on the grounds that respondents are failing to meet their procedural obligations under California law to provide in-person instruction for those who cannot access the education curriculum through distance learning and to provide special education assessments and services to qualified students,” according to attorneys for the advocacy groups.

Although school campuses generally remain closed across the county, LAUSD had been offering limited in-person tutoring for small groups of high- need students, along with child-care programs.

“There is no question that severe learning loss has already occurred, is ongoing, and will lead to irreparable harm for these students,” according to the petition. “This slow-motion catastrophe — with potentially irreversible and life-long negative consequences for students — can and should be immediately addressed.”

While shuttering in-person instruction, Beutner said the district is continuing to make plans for an eventual return of students to classrooms, and he called on state and federal authorities to pony up funding to make campuses safe. He outlined what he called a “Marshall Plan for Schools” that involves:

  • cleaning and sanitizing of school facilities and protective equipment for students and staff
  • school-based COVID-19 testing and contact tracing
  • mental-health support for students
  • funding for in-person instruction next summer to help students make up for lost instruction during remote learning
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