Federal judge orders California to reinstate distance learning for group of disabled students

California
Teresa Miller holds algebra class live and on and Zoom simultaneously at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo in this undated photo. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Teresa Miller holds algebra class live and on and Zoom simultaneously at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo in this undated photo. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

State officials must act immediately to provide distance learning that is comparable to last year for students with disabilities and also adequate to their overall needs, a judge has ordered.

The court finding, in the form of a temporary restraining order issued Thursday, will provide immediate relief for 15 students — with several dozen others that could follow — but there are broad implications for students across California.

The practices at issue arise from Assembly Bill 130, which put in place rules meant to ensure that school districts provided and prioritized in-person instruction for all students this fall after the pandemic resulted in campus closures the previous year. But the law also had some unintended consequences. The alleged harm in this case was that students who wanted — or even required — remote learning faced delays and roadblocks that kept them out of school and denied them needed services.

“The Court finds that plaintiffs have demonstrated irreparable harm,” wrote federal Judge Susan Illston, of the Northern District of California. “The declarations submitted by plaintiffs show that AB130 has forced parents to choose between the harm of their children losing educational opportunity or risking their health and safety. The declarations detail the very real health risks that these students face if they are required to attend in-person school as a result of their disabilities and the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the educational losses the students have and will experience as a result of missing instruction.”

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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