NewsLocal News


Judge hears case from families suing Salt Lake City School District, others over online-only learning

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 00:45:28-05

SALT LAKE CITY — District Court Judge Adam Mow heard arguments Tuesday about Salt Lake City School District’s decision to only offer online learning.

Several parents filed a lawsuit against the Salt Lake City School District, former Gov. Gary Herbert, the Utah State Board of Education, the state of Utah and Larry Madden, superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, over the decision to close the district. Currently, Salt Lake City School District is the only school district in Utah to not offer in-person learning options.

You can read the lawsuit here.

The plaintiff’s lawyers argued the decision to keep children fully online has caused an unprecedented failure rate, caused kids' emotional issues, and they claim the decision was based off fear of the pandemic, not facts from the health department.

READ: SLC School Board votes to start grades 7-12 in-person based on tentative vaccine rollout

Two parents took the virtual stand to express their concerns, including their failed attempts to switch their children to Granite School District so their children could learn in person.

Ella Feifia, a seventh-grade student in the district, shared her struggles with online learning. She said she went from getting A’s and B’s to C’s, D’s and even some F’s.

“I am not getting good grades, and I feel like I don’t know how I am going to get anywhere if I don’t have good grades and not understanding how to do the homework,” she said during the virtual proceeding.

READ: Families sue Herbert, SLC School District over closed schools

The decisions to keep the schools closed have been made based on facts, science and the specific needs in the Salt Lake district, the defense argued.

“I think we made a determination based on what was happening in our city to do what was best for our city,” said Melissa Ford, president of the Salt Lake City Board of Education.

The plan is for elementary students to return for in-person learning next month. A decision on secondary students is expected to be discussed in Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Larry Madden, superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, said.

“If we have the opportunity for teachers to be vaccinated and we feel that they are safe to be in the classroom, and that brings us some more latitude to bring in the ones that are not successful in their remote environment,” he said.

READ: First Salt Lake City teachers line up for COVID-19 vaccine

The plaintiffs’ team argued the school board did not have the authority to make this type of decision, as all other districts offered an in-person learning option.

The defense argued there is not enough evidence to prove online learning is the sole reason for the increasing number of failing students, as the pandemic and other issues have caused great stress during these unprecedented times.

Judge Mow said he will release his decision soon. FOX13 News will update this article as soon as that happens.