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Families Sue California Over Inequalities In Online Education for Low-Income Black and Latino Students, Suit Is First of Its Kind

Seven California families are suing the state for failing to provide “basic educational equality” for low-income families.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the families in Alameda County Superior Court Monday, Nov. 30, by nonprofit law firm Public Counsel and international law firm Morrison & Foerster.

In the lawsuit, the families allege the state isn’t providing adequate support and equipment necessary for children of these families to navigate online learning.

“The change in the delivery of education left many already-underserved students functionally unable to attend school. The State continues to refuse to step up and meet its constitutional obligation to ensure basic educational equality or indeed any education at all,” the suit states, according to Reuters.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind, according to Mark Rosenbaum, one of the attorneys representing the families.

Together, the families represent a total of 15 public school students ranging from kindergarten to high-school age. They attend school in Oakland and Los Angeles and have been identified as predominately Black and Latino.

Since schools shut down in March and the state transitioned to online learning, the families said they have been forced to face the challenges that come along with their children working remotely on their own.

Despite the state constitution’s guarantee of equity in education, the families said their children have not been provided devices and internet connections; nor has the state adequately addressed mental health, English language barriers and needs of homeless students.

“Because of the State’s inadequate response, parents and grandparents have had to become tutors, counselors, childminders, and computer technicians, and they have had to find a way to pay for what are now basic school supplies — laptop/tablets, paper, printing, and internet access,” the lawsuit says, adding California has “offered families no training, support, or opportunity to provide input into plans for remote learning, the eventual return to in-person instruction, or the delivery of compensatory education.”

The State Board of Education, Department of Education and Superintendent Tony Thurmond are all named as defendants in the suit.

The families are urging the state to fix the inequities that may correlate with the large number of public school students that have been failing classes this year, Politico reported.

Rosenbaum said it is another stark example of how poor communities and people of color continue to be adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The impact of the pandemic on California’s most vulnerable students has been to deny them in far too many instances even the semblance of an education, dramatically widening an already indefensible opportunity gap with their more privileged counterparts,” Rosenbaum said. “Remote learning may not be preventable but the remoteness of California officials to the desperate educational needs of its children is.”

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