Last Updated on April 7, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Have you been on edge not knowing if your kids will actually get an in-person education this fall due to the Coronavirus fears? The not knowing is difficult. Parents need to get back to work, but how can they work if their kids are at home? And, are kids REALLY being educated if they are getting a couple hours of classes a week online? What are they doing the rest of the day? What can we do and what must we do if we want schools to reopen? It’s time to communicate.
Although there are some charter home schools already set up for great distance learning which anyone can sign up for, most parents want their kids in a physical school, even now. Yet the education of our kids has largely been thrown to the side of the road and crushed by Coronavirus. Now kids are not getting enough education or interaction, and are isolated and alone.
The California Constitution makes education an essential right, as outlined in Article IX which states:
Section 1 A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.
Section 5 The Legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be kept up and supported in each district at least six months in every year, after the first year in which a school has been established.
For months we have been waiting to see what would be decided by the authorities, and if school would reopen. Would our right to an education, as outlined in the California Constitution, be returned? It depends on where you live and who is in charge.
I have heard from parents who have received the glorious notification that their kids have a school to go back to (if they want to send them), such as in Placer County, or in Lodi, California. I have also spoken to parents who were told no physical school was to begin, like in Los Angeles and San Diego. These parents scratch their heads and say that this is impossible as they have young kids who cannot be left home, and that they are not equipped to teach them.
One family I know has a First Responder parent who has to work and who cannot watch the children, let alone educate them. This same family informed me that their District said that they had not been contacted by parents on the issue of reopening and as a result had concluded parents were indifferent to whether schools reopened for in-person education or not. Hardly! Parents care! Surveys have found that the majority of parents want their kids to return to full time face-to-face school, or at least want the choice whether they do or they don’t.
Ultimately, parents ALWAYS had the choice of whether to send their kids to in-person school or not, ever prior to Coronavirus. Parents can enroll their kids in independent study, put them in a free charter school, create a private home school, or have students attend classes in the community part time with a home/class hybrid. We did not need Coronavirus to have these options. Parents do not need to be forced to keep their kids home- they can decide themselves, so long as the options are available to them. Even if schools simply reopened, all parents could still keep their kids home to pursue alternative education options if they so desired, regardless.
If parents want kids to return or at least to have the option to return, it may be time to politely and reasonably contact the local school districts, the principals, our teachers, our congresspeople, the Governor, the State Superintendent of Education, the local newspaper and anyone else who may have a say in this, and let them know. Perhaps with enough voices, we can get the hesitant school districts to just get the job done already, after months of knowing this day was coming- to get distancing in place, to get the masks and hand sanitizer dispersed, staggered breaks set up, and get our kids back to life and learning. It is likely a large chunk of parents won’t return their kids regardless, which means less crowding anyway for the rest of the kids.
Parents have more power than they think, but only if they exercise their right to be heard and express themselves. If schools and government officials are only hearing from teachers unions and government officials on this, kids may be at home until they are 18 and even into college with the way things are going. Kids will always get sick, whether it’s from Coronavirus, the flu, or some other bug out there, but the harm from isolation and internet all day also poses a threat to our kids and their future. How are other countries doing this, but the USA cannot? We can do it also.
It’s time for some grass roots parent-driven advocacy. There are millions of parents in this state and I would say that is enough to make an impression on school officials if the respectful noise is loud enough.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.