The best way to prevent politicians and bureaucrats from ever again inflicting on American kids the learning losses, social isolation and staggering financial burden of the Covid lockdowns is to ensure a just reckoning for the destruction they caused. Perhaps this is beginning to happen.
John Fensterwald reports in the Bakersfield Californian:
This fall, in a courtroom in Oakland, lawyers will reexamine the pandemic’s impact on K-12 schools in California — a subject many people might prefer to forget about but can’t because, like COVID itself, the effects are inescapable.
The state of California defends itself over accusations that it mishandled remote learning during COVID, starting in the spring of 2020, and then failed to alleviate the harm its most vulnerable children experienced then and still experience.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman denied the state’s request to dismiss the case outright earlier this month. There’s no dispute that low-income students of color, in particular, had less access to remote learning during the nine-plus months they learned from home, Seligman wrote in a 12-page ruling. The question that needs answering, he said, is whether the state’s level of response is so insufficient that it violated the children’s right to an equal opportunity for an education under California’s constitution.
The case is Cayla J. v. the State of California, the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Cayla J., a Black 8-year-old twin in third grade in Oakland when the lawsuit was filed in November 2020, is the lead of 15 unnamed student plaintiffs from Oakland and Los Angeles. The trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 13.
Of course the California government has responded to the lawsuit with a spirit of good faith and a commitment to transparency.
Just kidding. The editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes:
State education officials didn’t just reject the idea they bore any blame for the nightmares faced by many students in Los Angeles and Oakland. They threatened Stanford Graduate School of Education professor Thomas Dee — and other education researchers given access to state data — with legal action if they provided information used in this or any lawsuit deemed “adverse” to the California Department of Education.
To insist that researchers can only use school data in a way that is neutral or makes the department look good is perverse and antithetical to what should be the goals of public education. Had such policies been in place 20 years ago, they could have kept the lid on perhaps the worst scandal in the history of public schools in California: the 2005 report by Harvard researchers that credibly alleged the state had for years knowingly exaggerated graduation rates, especially among Latino and Black students, by relying on what was plainly “misleading and inaccurate” information.
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Thankfully, on Aug. 17, the EdSource website reported that the state had mostly backed away from its threats against Dee and others. But given state officials’ history, there is simply no reason to believe this resulted from a realization the threats were wrong. Instead, they were embarrassed by the optics of the flap.
It would be nice if the entire lockdown regime led by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D., Calif.) and other similarly reckless governors nationwide could be put on trial. It might be useful to have officials acknowledge under oath just how small the Covid risks to children really were—and also how small the benefits of societal shutdowns turned out to be, especially in light of titanic costs. But Judge Brad Seligman’s order denying the California government’s motion for summary judgment suggests that the issue in his court is the way California educators implemented the destructive lockdown, not the decision to impose it:
This case does not address any overarching claims about state’s response to the COVID epidemic, nor the closures of schools that were the result of emergency orders. This case is also likewise not about historic inequities suffered by students of color or lower socio-economic means. The narrow focus of this case targets the period of time when the schools were physically closed and learning was available only remotely.
Related: Taxpayer supported Dane County Madison Public Health mandates & closed schools.