The NSW Minister for Education says ventilation in schools is sufficient to prevent spread of airborne disease. But there's no evidence that ventilation's been measured in even one classroom! Meanwhile, parents who do not send their children to school are threatened with court and fines. They say concern about catching COVID-19 or transmitting it to family members is no excuse.
We will ask the Supreme Court to order the NSW Minister and Department of Education to:
* Do everything possible to make the air in schools safe – air conditioning with ventilation, air quality monitoring, and HEPA filters. This will have lasting health benefits and finally fix the problem of ridiculously hot or cold classrooms.
* Grant ‘pandemic leave’ to parents who request it (unless there are concerns about the child’s home situation). Parents should not be punished for keeping children safe.
LEGAL ACTION IS EXPENSIVE
Even though most of our legal advice is provided “no win, no fee” we need enough money to protect the plaintiffs. If we lose the case, we don’t want the plaintiffs or Covid Safe Schools faced with costs to pay. We will not file for legal action until we have $50,000 in the bank.
If legal action does not go ahead, any surplus money will be used to make schools more COVID-safe in other ways or to provide legal advice for parents and teachers who are wanting to protect themselves or their families from COVID. No refunds will be made.
'Sending children back at the peak of a pandemic makes absolutely no sense. This announcement is not about keeping people safe, it's a recipe for chaos.' Dr Kerryn Phelps AM - Covid Safe Schools supporter
State Governments and their Education Departments continue to ignore the advice of Australia’s top scientists (Ozsage and others) who promote safety measures in schools and the rights of parents to keep children safe. Now that most States have decided to “let it rip”, legal action seems the only hope of giving children and teachers the best protection available.
Covid Safe Schools will ask the court to order the NSW Department of Education to grant “pandemic leave” to parents who wish to keep their children home. Basic learning materials and guidance are to be provided for those learning at home – at least the resources on the NSW Hub. This would not increase the workloads of classroom teachers and is the quickest way to protect the greatest number of students and teachers. Pandemic leave will protect many students and families in the short term and make classes smaller and safer for those who need to be there.
We recognise that most people can’t and don’t want to keep their children home from school on pandemic leave. That’s why this case will also be used to get the best possible COVID safety measures in schools – proper ventilation, air monitoring and filtration, high quality masks etc. All students, teachers and school staff deserve the best protections.
Several amazing families are willing to stand up and be plaintiffs on behalf of us all. The GoFundMe campaign is necessary to protect the plaintiffs against court costs. Any spare money will go towards legal fees for this legal challenge, general legal advice for parents or teachers, or improving school COVID safety.
NSW is our current focus because it has the worst COVID outbreak and we have to start somewhere. Once we achieve change in one state, of course we will be supporting actions all over Australia.
Parents participating in this test case speak about their concerns:
My husband was incapacitated by a motorbike accident and I am his full-time carer. I have an auto-immune disorder. We haven’t received our boosters yet. We are both surviving on pensions and doing our best to continue our kids’ education from home. They desperately want to be at school and we hope they can return once they’re fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the school should be supporting us, not adding to our stress.
Both my husband and I are in the high risk category. Ventilation is about the only safety measure at the school and the audit allows less than one square metre per child in many classrooms. Teachers are not always masked. That makes me nervous. My application to keep my children home until they’re double vaccinated was refused. I am being denied the right to keep my kids safe. My kids are being denied the right to continue learning from home. I feel totally abandoned.
Amelia, Lake Macquarie
Our family is in great health and we take great care to avoid COVID-19 exposure. We have a baby and don't want to risk one of the older children bringing the virus home. We are very concerned about the long-term risks for all of us and the immediate danger for our baby. We want the option for remote learning at least until two weeks after my child’s second dose. The Principal is very supportive but says the Department’s policy is that unless the child is sick or vulnerable they have to attend. It’s unfair to the Principal and unfair to my family.
Schools are the heart of our community, when they’re left unprotected from COVID, the whole community is at risk. We all have a stake in ensuring our schools are safe.