Story at a glance

  • The city sued its own school district last week to push the schools to open.
  • In a motion filed Thursday, the city cited a record number of suicidal children that have visited emergency rooms.
  • On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance on safely reopening schools, noting that while COVID-19 vaccination of teachers should be prioritized, it should not be considered a condition to reopening classrooms.

The city of San Francisco says the number of suicidal children hit record highs as public schools remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last week, the city took an unprecedented step and sued its own school district over the continued closures that have kept San Francisco’s more than 54,000 public school students out of the classroom since March 2020.


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City Attorney Dennis Herrera argued in the lawsuit that reopening was safe and the San Francisco Unified School District was hurting students’ mental health by keeping the facilities closed. The lawsuit also said school officials have yet to deliver a detailed plan for reopening, which is required by law. 

In a motion filed in San Francisco Superior Court Thursday, Herrera provided testimony from hospitals and parents on the mental health effects the closures are allegedly having on children, according to The Associated Press (AP). 

The lawsuit claims UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital has seen a 66 percent increase in the number of suicidal children who visited emergency rooms and a 75 percent increase in children who required hospitalization for mental health issues, AP reports. UCSF Children’s Emergency Department at Mission Bay also saw record high numbers of suicidal children last month, according to the legal filing. 

The city also cites testimony from parents. One mother said her 15-year-old daughter often cries in the middle of the day out of frustration, and she recently found her “curled up in a fetal position, crying, next to her laptop at 11 a.m.,” according to the AP. 

Another parent said her 7-year-old son has had “uncontrollable meltdowns,” and her 10-year-old daughter is experiencing “depression and anger.” She said she believes her daughter’s mental health will continue to suffer until schools are reopened. 

San Francisco schools have been allowed by law to reopen since September. But teachers’ unions have said they will not return to in-person learning until they receive vaccinations and the district has yet to finalize a deal for reopening. 

“We wholeheartedly agree that students are better served with in-person learning,” Laura Dudnick, the school district’s spokeswoman, told AP. “We are eager for the city to make vaccines available to our staff.”

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance on safely reopening schools, noting that while COVID-19 vaccination of teachers should be prioritized, it should not be considered a condition to reopening classrooms. 

The agency’s recommendations focus on universal mask wearing by students, staff and teachers as well as social distancing. The CDC said schools can adjust whether they will offer full in-person teaching or hybrid learning depending on the level of community spread. 

“The science has demonstrated that schools can reopen safely prior to all teachers being vaccinated,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday.


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Published on Feb 12, 2021