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Parents’ lawsuit seeks to block B.C.’s back-to-school plan, calls students ‘guinea pigs’

B.C. has given the green light to COVID-19 safety plans from all of the province's 60 school districts.
B.C. has given the green light to COVID-19 safety plans from all of the province's 60 school districts. Zsolt Szigetvary/MTI via AP

Two B.C. fathers are taking the Ministry of Education to court in a bid to block its coronavirus back-to-school plan.

The lawsuit, filed by Bernard Trest and Gary Schuster in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday, claims the plan “not only endangers the lives of students and teachers, but also that of the broader community.”

Click to play video 'B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming outlines the province’s coronavirus back-to-school plan' B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming outlines the province’s coronavirus back-to-school plan
B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming outlines the province’s coronavirus back-to-school plan

“The current plan they’ve instituted … is bound to lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and death,” Trest told Global News on Wednesday.

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“I don’t want to see any child end up in a hospital in a respirator or dead.”

The applicants want the province to reduce class sizes, make masks mandatory in classrooms, make physical-distancing mandatory within students’ learning groups, and make virtual learning available to all students.

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Under the existing plan, masks will only be mandatory for staff, middle and high school students in high-traffic areas where physical-distancing cannot be maintained. The province has also said that class sizes are already at historically low levels.

Read more: Coronavirus: Back-to-school plans for all B.C. school districts now posted online

“The respondents are conducting a potentially deadly science experiment in which students and teachers are the guinea pigs,” the claim alleges.

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“It wrongly presumes that ‘learning groups’ are effectively a ‘safe bubble,’ similar to family bubbles, whereby masking and physical distancing is not necessary. However, it fails to acknowledge that each child in a learning group has its own family bubble and will be potentially carrying the virus from their homes to school and vice versa.”

The plan would allow asymptomatic students to come to school, even if one of their family members becomes ill, and ignores international data showing that children are susceptible to COVID-19, according to the claim.

READ MORE: Vancouver high schools to use hybrid model under coronavirus plan

Click to play video 'Surrey parents call for remote learning options' Surrey parents call for remote learning options
Surrey parents call for remote learning options

In response, Education Minister Rob Fleming told a news conference on Wednesday that the province has signed off on all 60 school districts’ COVID-19 safety plans.

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He said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet, and that the ministry would respond “if necessary,” but that he was confident the plan was safe.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ottawa giving provinces $2B for back-to-school safety

“All guidelines for the reopening of vital services or businesses or the K-12 setting in particular have been developed by science and the public health leadership,” Fleming said.

“Schools are different than, say, a shopping mall. These are secure, controlled sites. They are buildings that are distributed into different configurations with many rooms.”

The BC Teachers’ Federation has echoed many of the complaints laid out in the the lawsuit. The union wants class sizes slashed and masks required everywhere.

A formal statement of defence has not been filed. None of the claims has been proven in court.