In an unprecedented step, San Francisco has sued its own school district over continued closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, backed by Mayor London Breed (D), argued in the lawsuit that reopening was safe and that the San Francisco Unified School District was hurting students’ mental health by keeping facilities closed, according to the Associated Press.
“Not a single San Francisco public school student has set foot in their classroom in 327 days,” Herrera said in a Wednesday news conference. “More than 54,000 San Francisco schoolchildren are suffering. They are being turned into Zoom-bies by online school. Enough is enough.”
While San Francisco schools have been allowed by law to reopen since September, teachers’ unions have said they will not return to in-person learning until they receive vaccinations. State requirements call for districts to develop a plan to “offer classroom-based instruction whenever possible,” which the city accused the district of violating.
Vincent Matthews, superintendent of the district, said the lawsuit “isn’t helpful” and that the district has been “feverishly working toward and fighting for and pushing for the return of students to in-person learning.”
“We’re all in this San Francisco pandemic bubble together, and turning on us is not helpful whatsoever,” he said.
Matthews defended the lack of a definitive timeline for the reopening process, citing the unsteady infection and vaccination rates in the city.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research has indicated minimal risk of transmission of the virus in schools with proper precautions such as masks and adequate ventilation. Breed, meanwhile, argued the continued closure of facilities was exacerbating racial and economic inequalities in the city.
“Our kids are suffering, and the inequities that existed before this pandemic have only become more severe,” she said, according to the AP.
San Francisco County has seen a total of 31,706 cases of the virus and 324 deaths as of Wednesday.