Fresno

Brandau announces opposition to legal blitz on Immanuel Schools

Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau broke rank with his colleagues and high-ranking County officials on Monday, announcing his opposition to a brewing legal battle to shut down Immanuel Schools.

Immanuel Schools, a private Christian school system in Reedley, reopened for in-person instruction nearly two weeks ago. In the intervening time, Fresno County public health officials have threatened to seek legal action to shut down the schools.

Last week, they followed through – filing an injunction in Fresno County Superior Court to shutter in-person instruction as violating Gov. Gavin Newsom and Fresno County’s public health orders against in-person school instruction.

As he kicked off his press conference in the courtyard between the Fresno County Hall of Records (home of the Board of Supervisors) and Fresno County Superior Court, Brandau couldn’t help but note that the gathered reporters and photographers weren’t stationed six feet apart.

Pointing to Fresno County’s balancing act of monitoring coronavirus and reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics, Brandau backed the Christian school’s reopening.

“Immanuel High School in Reedley is doing its best to serve their students, their parents, and their faculty. For this reason, I am opposed to the lawsuit that Fresno County has filed against them,” Brandau said.

Brandau noted that the Supervisors did not directly weigh into the legal action undertaken by the Public Health Department.

“The Board of Supervisors was petitioned for direction last week, in closed session,” he added. “It was not a direct, up-or-down vote, it was to give direction. And I opposed it then, I voiced my dissent.”

However, sources told The Sun that Fresno County Supervisors granted the Public Health Department greater autonomy and authority in cracking down on violators of public health orders.

The battle with Immanuel Schools has served as the most public example of that new-found authority.

He pointed to the fact that the pending litigation is back up for closed-door deliberations during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I will remain steadfastly opposed to this,” he said.

While Brandau is the first to publicly express his opposition to the legal moves, it appears that the moves by the County’s public health department still have the backing of Brandau’s four other colleagues.

For his part, Brandau added that he would be pursuing a policy push to allow students with special needs – who, as a whole, have had difficulties learning and retaining information via distance learning – back into the classroom in Fresno County.

Tying back to the lengthy struggle of the coronavirus era – balancing health concerns with normalcy in daily life, Brandau noted the motivations that have all-too-often clouded decisions.

“I’m not throwing anybody under the bus,” Brandau said. “My observations have been that many people have been trying and doing their best – but not everybody.

“For some people, this is all now about politics or money.”

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.