Southern California parents sue Gov. Gavin Newsom over school closure order

Southern California parents are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials over the ban on in-person schooling.
LOS ANGELES -- Southern California parents are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials over the ban on in-person schooling, claiming it violates constitutional and federal rights.

Attorney Harmeet Dhillon joined some of her clients on a virtual press conference Thursday ahead of a hearing on the case Monday.

"The governor has imposed a one-size-fits-all template, where as in fact, there are numerous variations and parents have numerous needs and concerns as well," said Dhillon, the founder and CEO of The Center For American Liberty.

Those needs come from low-income minority families, single parent families and those who have children with disabilities.

"Special needs families are really being devastated. We're impacted so profoundly," said Santa Clarita mother Christine Ruiz.

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"Students who are already disadvantaged are being adversely affected by this order, and I feel a personal responsibility to make sure that we get this one chance at a guaranteed education," said Rancho Palos Verdes father Matthew Brach, who's also on the local school board.

Dhillon questioned why day cares are able to be open on the same campuses that would be used for school.

"I think that demonstrates the fallacy of the concept that the schools are unsafe, the children are unsafe," she said.

When asked about a reported case in Florida where a student showed up to school with symptoms, forcing others to quarantine, Dhillon said one case isn't enough to dictate widespread data.

"The data that we have put in from controlled scientific studies from around the world supports that where proper precautions are taken, the students are safe," said Dhillon.

The parents involved say it all comes down to choice.

"To make our voice heard. To ask our governor to give us the choice. To choose if we are going to go for homeschooling or not," said Los Angeles mother Marianne Bema.

"I believe that parents should have the choice to send their children to school or not. Teachers should have the choice to teach or not, and districts should have the choice to open or not," said Mission Viejo father Jesse Petrilla.

Another lawsuit is brewing on behalf of private schools that enroll about 500,000 students across the state.

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California public health leaders on Monday outlined guidelines for how some elementary schools across the state may return to in-person instruction.

"The claims are similar to those being filed in the public school lawsuit, but we are of course including the First Amendment, free exercise of religion claims as well," said attorney Mike Porrazzo, who represents about 250 to 300 private schools and churches across California, including Montebello Christian School, which serves about 100 families.

"Public schools will always be around. They have state funding. We do not, so if we don't open our doors, there's a good chance that we may never be able to serve our low-income, poor, minority families going forward for the rest of our existence," said Sebastian Petz, head of school for Montebello Christian School.

A third lawsuit is also expected to be filed on behalf of the Orange County Board of Education. Eyewitness News reached out to the governor's office for a response and haven't heard back.

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