Thursday, April 22, 2021

Judge denies request to force schools to reopen


“I don’t really have a problem with anything on the school part except the way teachers can explain stuff to us is different; it’s better in the classroom,” student reporter Robert Ware quoted another student at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, as saying in his article in The Jaguar Post.

Las Vegas Academy (Christina B Castro/Flickr Creative Commons)

Desert Pines is one of 374 schools in the Clark County School District, which serves more than 330,000 students, the nation’s fifth largest public school district.

So while the e-learning situation, where students stay home and log into the classes by computer, may be working for students quoted in that article, despite challenges such as noisy home environments and time management, many students—those with disabilities, for example—don’t have quite the same experience at home as they would working alongside teachers.

The fact that students with special needs are doing much worse with e-learning than students who don’t have an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, led a group of parents in Clark County to file a class-action lawsuit, alleging that CCSD was causing undue harm to students by switching from in-person instruction to an e-learning model. The district, the complaint says, has failed to provide access for all students to a free and appropriate education during e-learning phases.

They asked the US District Court for Nevada to order the district to scrap the e-learning plan and reopen all schools to in-person learning, but on November 19, Judge James Mahan denied their request for a preliminary injunction. The court ruled that any harm that may have been caused was outweighed by the public interest of protecting students and staff during the pandemic.

His decision was limited in scope, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports: He only denied an emergency return to in-person learning across all schools, writing that it is “difficult to believe that forcing students and teachers back to in-person learning is in the public interest.”

The plaintiffs’ legal team can still appeal and keep the suit moving forward in order to secure special education services for students whose IEPs call for those services, as IEPs are binding legal documents.

As part of the return to e-learning, the complaint alleges, the district modified IEPs, thereby denying important services to special education students. The families hope to remedy that situation as the case continues.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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