BALTIMORE COUNTY — Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) could face legal action over its reopening plan, which will bring some students back for twice weekly face-to-face instruction beginning March 1.
Amy Adams and Mary Taylor, two BCPS parents and organizers of a group of over 2,800 BCPS stakeholders pushing for a faster reopening, issued an ultimatum to the district last month — offer an in-person option for students effective March 1, or prepare for a lawsuit.
At the time, BCPS had not yet given a firm date for reopening. After the district released its twice-weekly plan on Monday, Feb. 1, Adams and Taylor were not satisfied.
Former District 7 State Del. Patrick L. McDonough, an advisor in legal action against BCPS, told the Avenue on Feb. 9 that they still intend to sue, pushing for a five-day-per-week option.
They first indicated that a lawsuit would be filed on Jan. 27, but extended their ultimatum through the end of the following week. McDonough told the Avenue on Feb. 3 that the suit would be filed by early the following week — this week. On Tuesday, he told the Avenue the suit would be filed after a meeting with between the parents and legal counsel later in the week. At press time, the lawsuit had not been filed.
They have already delivered a legal claims letter alerting BCPS leadership of their intent to sue, arguing that BCPS has violated the rights of students under the Maryland and United States Constitutions by failing to offer what they call high-quality education for all those who want it. They hoped the letter would prompt the district to engage in negotiations.
“We’re committed to working together with our school community to safely return students and teachers in the classrooms as quickly as possible,” Taylor said at the press conference. “It’s time for parents and students to have a voice.”
McDonough said that the district had responded, acknowledging the claims letter and detailing the latest reopening plan.
In a statement, a district spokesperson declined to comment.
“Due to pending litigation, BCPS declines to comment on this story,” the statement reads. “Details related to the school system’s return to in-person instruction may be found at the BCPS Re-opening Plan on the BCPS website.”
The threat of a lawsuit came days after Gov. Larry Hogan urged school districts across the state to reopen, setting a March 1 deadline to begin at least some in-person learning.
Hogan cited concerns about learning loss, saying that the cost of keeping students out of schools outweighs the public health concern of bringing students back, particularly given evidence that schools can effectively mitigate spread of COVID-19. Families will still have the option to remain fully virtual, but many students struggle with remote learning, and some parents depend on the reliable childcare of the full school day.
Some parents have been frustrated with what they call a lack of communication from the district. Adams said that many of her emails and other attempts to contact board members and district leadership have been ignored, a frustration she says many other parents share.
“Some get half-responses, some get nothing,” she told The Avenue. “They use a lot of words but don’t really say a whole lot.”
For Adams, speaking out against the school system was ‘terrifying.’ However, she said she’s getting tired of going back and forth with the district. At this point, Adams said, she feels as though they’ve exhausted every other avenue for working with BCPS.
“I don’t want to be in opposition to the school system — I believe in public schools,” she said. “We want BCPS to be strong and successful. We want our students and staff to thrive. We feel this is our only option at this time.”
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