Parents sue Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools over remote learning

Nation & World News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A group of parents in Charlotte have filed a lawsuit against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, Superintendent of CMS Earnest Winston, and the North Carolina Association of Educators to push school leaders to return students to the classroom.

The lawsuit, filed in Mecklenburg County Superior Court, alleges that the Board’s recent decision to suspend ‘active education instruction’ of its 147,000 students in favor of virtual learning violates the North Carolina Constitution and was not supported by physicians, medical experts, and current data.

In deciding to go fully-remote, the suit alleges the Board failed and refused to take into proper consideration the education, health, general well-being, and interest of CMS students.

The lawsuit alleges that members of the NCAE, who represent the interests of local teachers, “organized a campaign to improperly influence and intimidate Board members” and CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston into issuing the suspension of active instruction.

Brian Hacker with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools told FOX 46 Charlotte on Tuesday that CMS has not yet been served with the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the NCAE employs a staff of full-time lobbyists in Raleigh and states on its website that it “has been instrumental in preserving educator salaries and longevity pay, protecting advanced degree pay and maintaining the state’s contribution to employee retirement.”

Because the NCAE is engaged in lobbying and collective bargaining for its members, the lawsuit alleges the NCAE has acted as the “functional equivalent” of a union.

North Carolina law forbids government agencies from negotiating with labor unions and outlaws coordinated strikes or work slowdowns.

FOX 46 Charlotte has reached out to the North Carolina Association of Educators for comment.

The court filing lists five parents as plaintiffs with a total of seven children.

Back in July, Gov. Roy Cooper had said he would allow individual school districts to decide whether to blend in-person and remote learning or go 100 percent virtual. At that time, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools seemed to be heading toward a mix of in-person and remote learning.

In July, Board members voted 7-1 to go with almost all virtual learning, citing student and teacher safety. They voted unanimously about two weeks later to shift all school instruction online.

At the end of August, CMS held a virtual meeting to review how the first week of remote learning went. Beginning on the first day of school, many students and parents were left frustrated by computer and system issues, and even Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston said as much with the issues that are beyond his control.

“We have faced some challenges this week,” Winston said at the time.

Thousands of students reported difficulties getting online, a digital divide in an era where digital is practically the only option. Some 16,000 students had inadequate or no internet access, and the effort to fix it comes at a cost, in the millions. CMS is looking to purchase hotspots for those in need.

Since the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education’s vote in July, COVID-19 numbers in Mecklenburg County and across the state have improved. Last week, Gov. Cooper eased coronavirus restrictions in North Carolina, allowing gyms, playgrounds, and museums to reopen at reduced capacity. Cooper also raised the limits on mass gatherings to 25 indoors and 50 outdoors.

Nightclubs, bars, and movie theaters remain closed.

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