Education · Fresno

Judge: Immanuel Schools must cease in-person instruction amid lawsuit

A Fresno County Superior Court judge ordered Reedley-based Immanuel Schools to immediately cease and desist from in-person instruction on Tuesday. 

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Tyler Tharpe penned his ruling, issuing a preliminary injunction against the Fresno County Christian school system, ordering an immediate end of in-person instruction while two-way litigation between the K-12 school system and Fresno County’s public health department rages.

“A comprehensive statutory scheme exists authorizing the State of California and the County to impose measures to protect the public from infectious diseases and other health threats during declared emergencies,” Tharpe wrote in his ruling. “[A]nd such measures must be complied with.”

Noting one of the burdens to be met by Fresno County, in pursuit of the preliminary injunction against Immanuel, was the likelihood of success on the issues at-hand, Tharpe said it was likely Fresno County would prevail on the merits, previewing the likelihood of an ultimate defeat for the Christian academy.

“Based on the materials before it, the court determines that it is reasonably probable that the County will prevail on the merits in this case,” he wrote.

The other burden, a balancing of harms between Fresno County and the school, tilted in the County’s favor, Tharpe found.

“The evidence presented by the County amply supports a finding that the County and its residents are under the threat of irreparable harm should
defendants be allowed to conduct in-person classroom instruction
while the County and its residents are in the throes of the COVID-l9 pandemic.”

Fresno County Public Health officials are expected to brief Tuesday afternoon on the suit and other coronavirus updates.

Immanuel Schools officials expressed disappointment over Tuesday’s ruling, which followed a California Supreme Court denial to invalidate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders to shut down in-person instruction.

Obviously, we are disappointed with the Fresno County Superior Court’s decision to issue the Preliminary Injunction,” a statement issued on behalf of Immanuel Superintendent Ryan Wood and school counsel Jennifer Bursch. “While today’s decision is a setback, we know that God is still at work in our situation and we will continue to seek His will.

“During the last five weeks we have seen God’s hand move mightily on our campus and throughout our community, without a single COVID related illness among our students, faculty, or families.”

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.