San Francisco Sues Its School District Over Closures. The City of LA Could Be Next.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is suing the San Francisco Board of Education and the San Francisco Unified School District for their failure to come up with an adequate plan to reopen classrooms. Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino will also introduce a motion Tuesday that would direct City Attorney Mike Feuer to file a lawsuit against LA Unified.

“Since the school district and its independently elected leadership have already squandered months of opportunity to develop a real plan as required by state law, Herrera will file a motion on Feb. 11, 2021 asking the court to issue an emergency court order,” according to a press release from the San Francisco Attorney’s Office.

Herrera’s suit is supported by Mayor London Breed.

“Distance learning is not good enough, this is offensive, and completely unacceptable!” the mayor said. She chastised the district’s focus on renaming 44 schools with controversial titles at a time when parents and children are struggling, wondering when they’ll be able to return to school.

San Francisco’s actions have influenced Buscaino.

“I’m hopeful to take a page out of San Francisco’s playbook,” the LA councilman said Thursday.

“I stand with the 1,500 pediatricians in Southern California as well as the director of the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) who are calling for the safe reopening of our schools," he added, referencing this statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics' Southern California chapter and the latest guidance from the CDC.

The state requires public school districts “to offer classroom-based instruction whenever possible,” yet neither San Francisco Unified nor LA Unified have plans to reopen any time soon. LA Unified schools likely won't resume in-person instruction until all teachers are vaccinated — something the governor says isn’t possible until summer. The teachers union has gone even further, saying classes should remain virtual even after all teachers are vaccinated unless there is also a significant decline in community spread.

In a statement, LA Unified officials said: “If Mr. Buscaino had called any of us asking how the City of Los Angeles might help schools, we would have suggested they redouble their efforts to reduce the level of the virus and make sure teachers and all who work at schools get immediate access to vaccines.”

San Francisco Unified and United Educators of San Francisco President Susan Solomon also pushed back Thursday. They deny there is no comprehensive reopening plan, citing a blueprint the school board approved in November. Herrera and Breed have called that document "a plan to make a plan.” 

It is not common for a city to file a lawsuit against its school district. San Francisco’s actions highlight the extent to which frustrations over school closures are growing among parents and public officials alike.



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