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Lawsuits & Litigation

Fed Up Parents Sue City of Racine, Wisconsin Over School Closures

— December 9, 2020

Parents of students in the city of Racine, Wisconsin are suing over the continued closure of schools.

A group of Wisconsin parents isn’t happy with the city of Racine as it continues to keep public and private schools shuttered due to the coronavirus. As a result, parents from five private schools, along with School Choice Wisconsin, are sued the city. According to the suit, the city “closed its public and private schools in defiance of a state Supreme Court ruling preventing such closures in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.” At the moment, the city has ordered schools to remain closed through January 15, 2021.

Image of law books
Law Books; image courtesy of witwiccan via Pixabay,

The plaintiffs are represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and they recently asked for an injunction following the November 12 order by Racine Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox that required schools to switch to virtual learning. In issuing the order, she said:

“We’re concerned that, again, individuals will not be responsible. They will interact with individuals outside their home. They’ll go to gatherings and such…They won’t be masked. They won’t keep social distancing, and they won’t stay home when they’re ill.”

Many parents and community members pushed back against the order and argued a “switch would disrupt school schedules and that students will not benefit the same as they would from in-person classes.” Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin added that COVID-19 is only one of several factors “at play that point toward allowing some kind of in-person instruction.” In an interview he said:

“All the schools, clearly in Racine, and around the state have worked overtime to create safe, clean facilities for students…But COVID is not the only factor in this decision. Kids need to be in school…given that option…There’s economic impacts on the families, time commitments…all sorts of issues when you’re talking about having thousands of students home.”

It’s important to note that, back on November 25, the Wisconsin Supreme Court “granted a restraining order prohibiting the city from closing schools…The order stands until the court decides on a similar case in Dane County, 100 miles west.” Empower Wisconsin, a conservative website noted:

“The same day, Bowersox sent an email to school administrators in Racine asserting the Court’s ruling ‘does not alter the status’ of the city’s Safer Racine ordinance, which only applies to the city.”

When asked about the city’s decision to keep schools closed, despite the restraining order from the state Supreme Court, a spokeswoman for the Racine Unified School District said the court order differs from the city’s rules. Stacy Tapp, chief of communications and community engagement for the school district added:

“We are still closed because the city ordinance (different than the order which was enjoined by the Supreme Court) is still in effect mandating schools closed until Jan. 15.”

As part of the suit, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed an emergency motion requesting the court to hold Bowersox in contempt. The group also wants the city to be fined $2,000 each day it defies the injunction.


Wisconsin parents sue city of Racine for shutting down schools


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