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California Supreme Court rejects lawsuits seeking to reopen schools during pandemic

First-grader April Alvarez enjoys an online class from her desk at the Delano Recreation Center in Van Nuys.
First-grader April Alvarez enjoys an online class from her desk at the Delano Recreation Center in Van Nuys, one of L.A.'s Safer at Parks: Alternative Learning Centers.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to overturn Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directives limiting in-classroom instruction to slow the spread of COVID-19.

During a private conference, the state’s highest court rejected without comment lawsuits brought by the Orange County Board of Education and others to reopen schools statewide.

Robert Tyler, one of the lawyers who brought the cases, said the legal fight was not over.

“It simply means that we will have to start the litigation by filing our claims in the Superior Courts because the court is not willing to permit this case to skip the lower courts,” Tyler said. “Once we proceed through the normal process, we believe we will still be victorious in the end.”

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The high court summarily denied the challenges after reviewing written legal arguments.

Jennifer Bursch, Tyler’s co-counsel, said the legal team had not yet “exactly decided our next move.”

“Be assured we are prepared to continue fighting for the rights of the vulnerable children of California,” she said.

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The lawsuits, one to reopen private schools and the other aimed at public schools, were supported by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a nonprofit religious liberties group.

Legal experts said the suits were always a long shot. Courts have been giving elected leaders flexibility during the pandemic to restrict activities to reduce the spread of the disease.

Orders by Newsom and the California Department of Public Health allow for limited in-classroom instruction in counties where the spread of the virus has slowed.

On Tuesday, Orange County moved into Tier 2 of the state’s monitoring system, which gauges a county’s ability to reopen more fully. The reclassification allows for more businesses — including movie theaters, restaurants and places of worship — to ease restrictions and open in limited capacity.

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State officials have also told Orange County it is eligible to reopen schools Sept. 22 following its reduced COVID-19 infection rate.


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