|Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at the extension of mask requirements in Alabama and Indiana, Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s (D) approval of a new stay-at-home order in Oahu, a lawsuit in California over in-person schooling, and much more. Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.
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Once a week, we take a closer look at a noteworthy lawsuit involving governmental responses to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. We define a noteworthy lawsuit as one that has garnered significant media attention, involves major advocacy groups, or deals with unique legal questions. This week, we look at a lawsuit involving prohibitions against in-person instruction at private schools in California: County of Fresno v. Immanuel Schools.
County of Fresno v. Immanuel Schools
On Aug. 25, California Superior Court Judge D. Tyler Tharpe denied Fresno County health officials’ request to temporarily bar in-class instruction at a private Christian school, until the judge issues a ruling.
What is at issue?
The county’s lawsuit seeks to block the school from hosting in-person classes. In its complaint, Fresno County argued that the school’s reopening would violate state and local public health orders and constitute a public nuisance. The County alleges in-person class instruction presents “an immediate and serious threat to the health and safety of the students, parents, teachers and staff at Immanuel Schools,” as well as to “the surrounding area, which includes many of the vulnerable agricultural worker populations that are being heavily affected by the COVID-19 virus.”
How did the court rule?
Ruling from the bench, Tharpe refused to issue a temporary restraining order, saying the County failed to “make an affirmative factual showing and a declaration pertaining competent testimony based on personal knowledge of irreparable harm, immediate danger or any other steps or a basis” for blocking the school’s actions at this time.
What were the reactions, and what comes next?
A statement from the leaders of Immanuel Schools said, “We know today’s decision is not permanent. Therefore, we will continue our legal efforts defending our rights to remain open.” Daniel Cederborg, attorney for the county, also reacted to the decision, saying that, while the judge appeared to be “impressed with the schools’ opening plan,” the decision “doesn’t show anything about the merits of the case.” A preliminary injunction hearing is set for Sept. 15, and a separate case, Immanuel Schools v. Newsom, challenging the state-mandated school restrictions, is currently pending before the California Supreme Court.