Education · Fresno · Highlight

Bredefeld, Nelson square off over lawsuit pushing Fresno Unified to return students to campus

Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld is pushing the city to take legal action against Fresno Unified School District to immediately force the district to return students to campus. 

The District 6 councilman released a statement Wednesday saying he will place an action item on the Feb. 18 City Council agenda to initiate the lawsuit. 

FUSD has kept its 80,000 students off campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the district’s plan is to allow in-person instruction to resume once Fresno County enters the orange tier of the state’s phased reopening plan. 

Fresno County is currently in the purple tier (most restrictive) and will need to experience significantly lower coronavirus case numbers to move into the red tier and then eventually the orange tier. 

Under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening guidance, all K-12 schools will be allowed to reopen when their respective counties enter the red tier. 

However, elementary schools can seek waivers from the state to reopen. Many school districts across the state – such as Clovis Unified School District – have taken that action to return some students to campus. 

“Our children have been locked out of school for over one year,” Bredefeld said in a statement. “Many are depressed, anxious and socially isolated. Suicide amongst high school children has spiked. Physical and sexual abuse has gone unreported as was just witnessed in the news with a 12-year-old girl being molested. 

“Kids are not learning remotely. Children who come from homes with limited economic resources have fallen further behind. Parents have had to give up employment to stay home and many have not been able to provide the academic instruction their children have needed. 

Bredefeld pointed to the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics – which is comprised of nearly 70,000 pediatricians – that schools can reopen safely by taking the proper precautions. 

“The FUSD school board and Superintendent Bob Nelson have been complicit in the damage to these children by keeping the schools closed,” Bredefeld said. “No more dithering, no more lack of plans to open, no more bowing before the teachers union or Governor Newsom. Prioritize the needs of our children and open the schools now.”

Following Bredefeld’s announcement, Nelson fired back on Twitter.

Nelson wrote: “So how is that two-party system working for you Fresnans? Nothing like politicizing an issue as serious as a safe and responsible return to schools in order to rally a support base. The only thing this release lacked was face paint, Viking horns, and a Chewbacca onesie.

That drew a response from Bredefeld, calling Nelson’s actions over the past year “disgraceful.”

“Pathetic response just like your ‘leadership’ over the past year,” Bredefeld wrote. “Your job is to educate and facilitate the development of 70,000 children. You’ve failed miserably as has your Board. You’ve bowed to union, your Board and ignored kids and their parents please for help. Disgraceful.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.