Fresno County judge orders Immanuel Schools to 'cease and desist' in-person instruction

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno County Superior Court judge has reversed his decision and is now ordering Immanuel Schools in Reedley to immediately stop holding in-person classes.

The decision came hours after Fresno County attorneys presented evidence and argument as to why the school should be closed.

Classes remained in session Tuesday afternoon, as it has been since the fall semester began at Immanuel schools.

But now, Judge Tyler Tharpe has ordered the private school to cease and desist from conducting in-person classes.

ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi said, "I think the judge did the right thing today in ensuring that the public health is protected. What he's saying is the school remaining open poses a threat to the community."

Fresno County counsel Dan Cederborg told the court 152 people died of COVID-19 in August. Cederborg said ICU beds were close to being full but later made available by the high death rate.

"This is a real threat. I know the defendant's don't see threat, it's a factual belief difference on whether this is a serious risk or not," said Cederborg.

Attorneys for Immanuel, who did not appear in person, said there have been no cases of COVID-19 at the school since they started classes more than a month ago.

"Immanuel has tracked every absence of every student. They had not had a single person with multiple symptoms related to COVID," said attorney Jennifer Bursch.

But county officials said there's no scientific proof since there's no testing being done.

County health officials have visited the campus twice since it's been opened. They noted some administrators didn't have masks on along with other practices that needed improvement.

"Why is it that 14 kids can be in a classroom being supervised, but if Immanuel wants to have 14 kids in a classroom being taught, somehow that affects COVID or the spread of COVID," said Bursch.

If the school doesn't abide by the ruling, it could face consequences.

"It could be civil consequences in terms of fines, it could be criminal consequences of doing time in custody for not following a court order," said Capozzi.

Immanuel officials declined to comment on the latest ruling. They do have the option to appeal but unless they get the judge to stay the decision, they would still be ordered to close.
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