The Orange County Board of Education’s bid to force California to re-open school campuses for in-person learning ended Wednesday when the California Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Board of Education President Ken Williams expressed disappointment with the ruling.
“I am sorry that the state Supreme Court did not view that Governor Newsom has abused his emergency powers that are given to governors under a real healthcare crisis. Our families and children are suffering from not going to school.”
Last month, the board, along with a few parents and several private schools across California, took the unusual step of filing legal actions directly with the state Supreme Court.
Two lawsuits claimed that actions by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health to curb the spread of coronavirus were unconstitutional and violated the right to equal access to education. Newsom’s order effectively closed most school campuses to in-person instruction, something the lawsuits argued is particularly tough on children with disabilities and low-income families who count on children being in school during the day while parents are at work.
The petitions asked the court to give parents the option of choosing whether their children could go back to campus for instruction. One lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Orange County Board of Education, several parents and the Palm Lane Charter School in Anaheim. The second was filed on behalf of private schools in other parts of the state, including Calvary Chapel in San Jose.
Last month, when the California Supreme Court ordered Newsom to respond, trustees and their supporters were elated. The four board members who voted to file the lawsuit – Williams, Mari Barke, Lisa Sparks and Tim Shaw – held a press conference in Costa Mesa on Aug. 26 that resembled a rally, with at least 200 adults and children waving flags and cheering. Few in the audience wore face masks as they called for schools to re-open in person.
As of late Wednesday, the court’s website featured an announcement of the denials but no related opinions explaining its rationale.
Attorney Robert Tyler, one of the attorneys who represented the Board of Education, indicated in a statement late Wednesday that his law firm may file another petition.