A group of over 20 parents in New York City are coming together to sue Mayor Bill de Blasio in an effort to force the city to reopen public schools, Gothamist reports.
The case, filed in the New York Supreme Court on Tuesday, argues that children are being deprived of their constitutional right to an education, much to the detriment of students.
"On the days they're in person they're thriving, they look energized and inspired," said Natalya Murakhver, who is spearheading the lawsuit. "On days they're doing remote they look glazed, like zombies."
Currently about half of the schools in New York City are offering in-person classes five days per week, although not all of their students are present for such classes every day. Many schools have committed to a "hybrid" learning process, whereby students spend some days of the week in class and others learning from home over Zoom.
Schools in the city are planning on easing many of the restrictions, however, with social distancing requirements being reduced from six feet to three feet and raising the threshold of cases which would require schools to close their doors.
Still, parents have complained that this does not go far enough, expressing concern that their children continue to spend much of the day at home without a teacher physically present. According to the parents, the current regulations are not a reflection of the risk of spreading coronavirus, but a cowering to the teachers union which wants schools to remain closed.
"There was a social contract when we made teachers essential workers," Murakhver said. "When they accepted that status, that meant that once they got vaccinated they were needed back in the classroom."
Avery Cohen, a spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio, insists that the measures taken by the city are reasonable, noting that all schools are open to in-person learning at least some days of the week.
"It's clear that New York City has set the reopening gold standard for districts across the country, and we will review this suit when it's filed," Cohen said.
Many teachers have also rejected the idea that the teachers' union is responsible for keeping kids at home, noting that many students and their parents have opted to finish the school year online.
"Most teachers want to be in the classroom," one English teacher insisted. "The fact is there are still a large number of families without access to or hesitant to take the vaccine and the nearly empty classrooms in my school building are indicative of this."