Newsletter: The great school debate

Cerritos Elementary School Principal Perla Chavez-Fritz, left, shows her Glendale campus to L.A. County schools chief
Cerritos Elementary School Principal Perla Chavez-Fritz, left, shows her Glendale campus to L.A. County schools Supt. Debra Duardo.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Pretty much no one wants to see schools closed because of the coronavirus, but reopening them safely is easier said than done.


The Great School Debate

There is broad agreement among experts that the coronavirus-driven school shutdown has harmed students academically and psychologically around the world. But when and how to reopen campuses is another matter.

This week, President Trump has been pushing for schools in the U.S. to resume in-person classes on schedule, claiming that Democrats are trying to keep them closed to give them an advantage in the November election. On Wednesday he threatened in a tweet to withhold federal funding from schools that stay closed, while also asserting, “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” a claim that has been disputed.


Many parents, teachers and health experts around the U.S. aren’t so sure — especially as new records for single-day coronavirus infections continue to be set in the U.S. as a whole and California in particular.

In Los Angeles County, the top public health official privately told local education leaders that the pending reopening of K-12 campuses is suddenly at risk because of the ongoing surge of coronavirus cases, and all public and private schools must prepare for students to continue learning entirely from home.

“Every single school district at this point needs to have plans in place to continue distance learning for 100% of the time,” Barbara Ferrer told school officials, according to a recording of a phone call obtained by The Times. “Given where our numbers are,” she said, referring to infections and hospitalizations, “we would be irresponsible if we didn’t say to you that you have to have the backup plan ready.

When asked about Trump’s comments, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that local districts are empowered to make their own decisions on reopening and need flexibility to determine how to do it, adding that safety is “nonnegotiable.” Students and school employees should not face unacceptable risk, he said.

“I fear that more than I fear a tweet,” Newsom said.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— In California, there are growing doubts that indoor dining and bar service will reopen anytime soon as health officials zero in on how to slow the spread of COVID-19.


— With the demand for testing having become greater than the supply in Los Angeles County, officials are narrowing the priority for who should get tested.

— Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., in late June that drew thousands of participants and large protests “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, according to the city-county health department director.

— The coronavirus is spreading in South Lake Tahoe, at one of California’s favorite summer destinations.

— In Canoga Park, Jaycebelle Tadena asked her neighbors to wear masks. Then the swastikas and racial slurs appeared in her apartment complex.


For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

Religious Liberty’s Big Week

By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court has barred teachers who work at church-run schools from filing discrimination lawsuits against their employers, ruling that the Constitution’s protection for religious liberty exempts church schools from state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

The justices shielded two Catholic elementary schools in the South Bay area of L.A. from discrimination claims by two teachers who complained they were unjustly fired, one due to an illness and the other due to age.


It was the third major win for a religious liberty claim in a week. Justices also ruled that parents who send their children to church-run schools have a right to the same state subsidies or tuition grants afforded to other private schools. And a majority of the court found that employers with religious or moral objections to birth control have a right to be exempted from the part of Obamacare that requires them to provide contraceptives to their female employees.

A Hard Sell

Immanuel Jarvis has spent most of his life in sales. Now, as chairman of the Durham County Republican Party in North Carolina, he’s facing one of his toughest sales jobs ever: Persuading Black Americans to vote for Trump.

“How many people do you know that are standing up for us?” said Jarvis, who is Black. “I know one. It’s a person that the media hates. His name is Donald Trump.”


Polls suggest fewer than 10% of Black voters back Trump’s reelection and more than 7 in 10 of those surveyed not only disapprove of his job performance but do so strongly. Still, millions of Black people will cast their vote for Trump in November.


In July 1984, escape artist Tim Eric was often seen around Venice Beach performing stunts for tips.

According to a July 8, 1984, Times article, the boardwalk had become a stage full of dozens of would-be stars, after an act called the Amazing Chain-Saw Juggler was discovered by the Johnny Carson show. A Times photographer and reporter watched Eric’s bid to be the next, as he freed himself from “chains, handcuffs and a straitjacket.”

“Usually it takes me about two minutes to get free, but once, in Vegas, it took me 145 minutes,” admitted Eric. He freed himself in about four minutes and made $18 in tips for the performance.


Tim Eric
July, 1984: Escape artist Tim Eric is placed in chains and straitjacket at Venice Beach. He escaped in four minutes.
(Ellen Jaskol / Los Angeles Times)

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— Since the coronavirus outbreak began, protesters have targeted a growing number of L.A. public officials at their homes.

— Attorneys representing the family of Andres Guardado, who was killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in Gardena last month, say an independent autopsy has found that the 18-year-old was shot five times in the back.


— A man and a woman shown on video while one defaced a Black Lives Matter sign on the Fourth of July in Contra Costa County have been charged with a hate crime.

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Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the U.S. from enforcing new visa guidelines that would force international students out of the country if schools offer only online classes in the fall.

— Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador once likened Trump to Hitler. But on Wednesday, it was smiles, handshakes and praise as the two leaders held a day of meetings in the White House to celebrate a new trade agreement that both hope can salvage their respective economies, devastated by the COVID-19 shutdown.


— A group of Democratic challengers to incumbent Republican U.S. senators has posted massive fundraising numbers, raising the party’s hopes of reclaiming the Senate from the GOP in the November election.

Passport offices are starting to reopen in the U.S., but reopening comes with a backlog of 1.5 million applications.


— Officials are searching for “Glee” actress Naya Rivera who went missing Wednesday afternoon in Ventura County while boating with her 4-year-old son.

Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate are going to adapt the “1619 Project,” the New York Times’ award-winning multimedia series that examines slavery’s lingering effects on contemporary life, into a set of feature films and television shows.


— A new report on location filming shows the coronavirus wiped out 98% of location shoots in L.A. in the second quarter.

— Thirty-one years later, the power of Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” endures. Here’s how it has always spoken to a nation in turmoil.

Kanye West has explained his presidential bid as only Kanye can.


Reddit moderators spent years asking for help fighting hate. The company may finally be listening.


Brooks Brothers is filing for bankruptcy protection. The filing comes after Barneys of New York sought bankruptcy protection last year, and it was followed by a slew of others toppled by the coronavirus shutdown, including Neiman Marcus, J.Crew and J.C. Penney.


Steve Ballmer is putting his billions behind bigger causes in L.A. than the Clippers, the NBA team he owns.

Stanford is cutting 11 of its 36 varsity sports programs — including wrestling, field hockey and men’s volleyball — following the upcoming academic year.

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— Did the Supreme Court just gift-wrap a win for Trump and the religious right? Not quite.

Colleges have a lot to answer for — beyond racists’ names on their buildings.


— “Mike Pence’s plan to save Trump — and himself.” (The Atlantic)

Black soccer players in the U.S. are coming together to speak up for change. (The Undefeated



At noon on June 16, Los Angeles streetwear brand Born X Raised released its first collaboration with the Los Angeles Rams. Fourteen minutes later, the entire collection had been snapped up. One style, a bone-colored hoodie, sold out in seconds. But the speed at which the collaboration sold wasn’t a big surprise for the founders of the Venice-based brand, created in 2013. When it did a collaboration with the Dodgers last summer, the pieces were snapped up in eight minutes.

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