Herrera statement on hearing for emergency court order to reopen SF schools

Herrera asks court to order SFUSD to commence in-person instruction for all grade levels by the end of April

City Attorney Dennis Herrera

SAN FRANCISCO (March 22, 2021) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera released the following statement regarding today’s hearing in San Francisco Superior Court on his request for an emergency court order, known as a preliminary injunction, to compel the San Francisco Unified School District to reopen public schools as allowed by public health officials:

“Today SFUSD basically said, ‘Trust us. We’re working on it.’ Well, that’s just not good enough. I didn’t want to sue the school district, but it was sadly necessary. The toll on families, the mental health crisis gripping our children, the devastating learning loss are all too much.

Health experts universally agree it’s safe for students, teachers and staff to go back to school with basic precautions. Millions of students are back in class across the country.

We’re asking the court to order SFUSD to commence in-person instruction by the end of April — for those who want it — at all schools and all grades.

Rather than be in court, I wish we were welcoming public high school students back to class today, like New York just did. New York City is now offering in-person instruction to almost 1 million students before SFUSD offers it to even one.

That is unacceptable.

SFUSD had nearly a year to present families with a clear plan to allow their children safely back in class if parents wanted. School officials failed to do so.

Even after the City gave the school district an extra $15 million for pandemic response, provided staff for site assessments and public health guidance, and partnered to deploy 25 WiFi Superspots in areas that lacked internet access, SFUSD still couldn’t get its act together.  Instead, SFUSD spent time and resources on things like renaming empty schools.

It was only after we sued the school district and parents mobilized to demand action that school officials finally began making progress on reopening.

It’s unfortunate that it took a lawsuit and families rallying in the streets to get the school district to focus on the most important thing – its students. After a year away from teachers, friends and schoolmates, we’re hopeful once again for San Francisco’s students and families. It’s time for kids of all grade levels to be able to go safely back to school, not be stuck in front of a screen.”

Case Background
The San Francisco Unified School District is a separate legal entity from the City and County of San Francisco. It is not managed by the Mayor or Board of Supervisors. The City Attorney does not represent it. The school district is governed by the Board of Education, an independently elected body with seven members.

The case is: City and County of San Francisco v. San Francisco Board of Education et al., San Francisco Superior Court case number CPF-21-517352, filed Feb. 3, 2021. Additional documentation from the case is available on the City Attorney’s website at: sfcityattorney.org