SALT LAKE CITY — A judge ruled against a group of parents who sued the Salt Lake City School District and others over the lack of in-person learning for their children.
District Judge Adam Mow issued his final judgment Thursday saying there was no irreparable harm caused by SLCSD moving to an all-online curriculum during the pandemic.
“It is really difficult to see how the judge decided to rule on this,” Emily Bell McCormick, community lawsuit organizer, said.
“I was really tickled when the judge ruled this way,” Chelsie Acosta, SLCSD Middle School Teacher, said.
Mow said because the Utah constitution only requires school districts to provide a curriculum for students, that the SLCSD did its job. School districts are not required by law to arrange for in-person learning.
Lawyers for the parents argued that the decision to keep children fully online 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.
“What puts an end to this? We wanted the judge to look at this situation and say we are going to put an end to this, by definition, public schooling includes a physical component of allowing a child in a classroom,” McCormick said.
A seventh-grade student who testified online claimed she went from A's and B's to D's and some F's because of her struggles with online class.
In his ruling, the judge shared data that students in the SLCSD performed near state averages, and actually improved over the 2019-20 school year in grades 5-12.
“We have re-created education, while trying to keep ourselves and our families and our students, and their families and their elders alive. And we have had to do all of this and the amount of pressure and I would say extortion and all the other things that come to mind is just ridiculous, what these parents and the legislature have done,” Acosta said.
A survey also showed that parents felt teachers were better prepared "in the fall than in the spring."
“The concern is that this decision serves as a warning to all Utah families with children in public school — there are no guarantees. Your district could reduce your child’s education to at-home worksheets and call that fair and equitable." said one of the plaintiffs in a statement.
Last week, the Salt Lake City School District announced junior high and and high students will return to classrooms in February. Pre-K, kindergarten and first graders all had the option to return to the classroom Monday.
Despite the ruling, Acosta is upset the board decided to return secondary students back to an in-person hybrid style schedule before teachers have been fully vaccinated.
“You have lost your lawsuit; however we are still going back, February 8th, without our second dose. So, you have done mental and emotional damage to all of us and now here comes the physical damage when one of us gets COVID or a student unknowingly transmits it to an elder and they get COVID, then you have physically caused harm,” she said.
In terms of an appeal, McCormick said she isn’t sure what will happen.
“We will just kind of wait and see how the plaintiffs’ feel about appealing and just kind of weigh out what our options are there, how does the legislative session go down, does the board vote to go back to school 5 days a week, those are the things that will affect whether or not we appeal to the supreme court,” she said.