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Staten Island Councilman Leads Families in Education Lawsuit

— November 3, 2020

New York parents file a lawsuit over the time it’s taking to reopen schools.

Led by City Councilman Joe Borelli of Staten Island, New York, a group of families with school-aged children is suing the city for the “damage being wrought by screen-dependent remote learning,” in an attempt to convince officials to reopen schools.  The group is “filing…a class action lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education seeking an injunction to ending remote learning and bring children back into the classroom,” according to a press release from Borelli’s office.  The councilman is calling into question whether the remote environment is sufficiently equipped to satisfy state laws concerning educational standards.

“We have large cities opening, there are models in Dallas and Miami,” he tweeted. “We don’t have to settle for the best Chancellor Carranza and Mayor de Blasio can do.”

When the move was announced, he added, “Today, we are here to announce that we are forming up against the New York City Department of Education for failing to meet the New York State constitutionally mandated public-school system.  That’s right.  The New York State Constitution guarantees public education in common schools.  We are demanding the DOE reopen and give parents an actual public school option that meets the state’s constitutional requirement to have public schools, or our lawsuit will continue and the courts will have to force the DOE to reopen them… I’m excited to see how the DOE tries to defend remote learning as meeting that constitutional right.  I would be shocked to hear people on the other side from us try to advocate for remote learning meeting those requirements.”

Staten Island Councilman Leads Families in Education Lawsuit
Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

Attorneys Mark Fonte, Lou Gelormino and James Mermigis are set to represent the plaintiffs in the class action suit.  The families have expressed concerns over the length of time it is taking for the state to normalize education by reinstating a traditional in-class structure.

“Here’s the bottom line…our children are not in school.  Our children.  This isn’t a restaurant.  This isn’t a business.  This is our children, and we will do anything we can to fight for our children,” Gelormino said.

Fonte added, “I promise you, as a father, that we will do everything we can to end remote learning and get our children back in the classroom where they belong.”

Department of Education spokesperson Danielle Filson suggested the group is misinformed, stating, “This is a distraction from real news: Today, we are officially open for in-person learning in every grade, and students will continue receiving high-quality instruction five days a week in a way that keeps our communities safe and helps prevent the spread of the virus.  As we continue to navigate a global pandemic, our reopening plan prioritizes the health and safety of our students and staff, and is in line with guidance issued by federal, state, and local health experts.”

She referred to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent decision to partially reopen schools for families under a hybrid in-person and virtual model rather than a full week of in-person instruction.

Kate Reilly, high school student and daughter of Assemblyman Michael Reilly (R-South Shore), supported the litigation.  She spoke from a student perspective, saying, “This is one of the most important years of my school career.  It’s ridiculous that we can’t be in school full time.  I speak on behalf of every single student I’ve known, and we miss school.  We need school.  We miss socializing.  We miss our teachers.  We miss learning.  We’re not getting anything from virtual school.”


NYC parents filing class-action suit to force full reopening of public schools

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