California Gov. Gavin Newsom got a ruler across the knuckles from a federal appeals court that ruled he went too far wielding his powers when he forced private schools to remain closed as part of his lockdown edicts to address the coronavirus.
“California’s forced closure of their private schools implicates a right that has long been considered fundamental under the applicable caselaw — the right of parents to control their children’s education and to choose their children’s educational forum,” Judge Daniel Collins of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote for the majority in the ruling on Friday.
“[T]he private-school Plaintiffs have established that the State’s prohibition on in-person instruction deprives them of a core right that is constitutionally protected,” the court said.
The ruling noted that this is not the first time California has been heavy-handed in its lockdown orders.
“As with its rigidly overbroad approach to religious services, California once again failed to ‘explain why it cannot address its legitimate concerns with rules short of a total ban,'” the court said.
“Because California’s ban on in-person schooling abridges a fundamental liberty of these five Plaintiffs that is protected by the Due Process Clause, that prohibition can be upheld only if it withstands strict scrutiny. Given the State closure order’s lack of narrow tailoring, we cannot say that, as a matter of law, it survives such scrutiny,” it said.
The appeals court, however, said that it could not offer the same support for parents of public school students who sued over Newsom’s July 2020 order.
It said that there is nothing in current law that requires the state to offer education in any specific format, and thus the parents lost that part of the lawsuit.
Newsom insisted its rules were the right action at the right time.
“Throughout this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, the state was guided by science and data — prioritizing the health and safety of students, staff, and their families while supporting schools to meet the needs of students and return to in-person learning quickly,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “All students are returning to full, in-person instruction next year, and the state is focused on ensuring that return is successful.”
Harmeet Dhillon, CEO of the Center for American Liberty, which represented the families suing Newsom, said the ruling is a victory for parents.
“Today’s opinion from the Ninth Circuit is a huge victory for parents’ rights,” she said. “The Ninth Circuit rightly ruled in parents’ favor, affirming that they — and not Gavin Newsom or faceless bureaucrats — have the right to decide how best to [educate] their children.”
“While we are thrilled for our clients whose rights are vindicated by today’s decision, we are disappointed the Ninth Circuit did not rule that all students, including those in public school, have a basic right to an education. We will continue to advocate for the educational rights of all students,” Dhillon said.
“The negative effects of keeping schools closed far outweigh the risks of opening them,” said Jesse Petrilla, who has two sons.
When schools first closed in March 2020, he said he noticed a “significant decline in engagement and motivation and enthusiasm for learning” in his children. Petrilla said there is also”worry about long-term effects, psychologically, if the schools remain closed.”
“Parents should have a choice. Teachers should have a choice. Districts should have a choice,” he said. “The governor is trying to take away that freedom with this order.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.