Cape Henlopen student sues district over remote learning

WILMINGTON — A Cape Henlopen High senior is listed as the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit claiming a deficiency in live teacher instruction when only attending school remotely.

According to the action filed Monday, the student (identified only as N.G.) is unable to attend school in person due to her mother’s health problems and concerns over associated COVID-19 risks.

While in-person students will receive two days of live teacher-led instruction, the lawsuit alleges that N.G. will receive just one day due to only attending remotely.

“As such, she is directly injured by receiving an education inferior to that received by students attending classes in person,” according to the six-page action filed on her behalf by Wilmington attorney David L. Finger.

Requests for comment from defendants Cape Henlopen School District and Superintendent Robert Fulton Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The school district’s hybrid approach allows students to attend classes in person or online, according to the action.

The complaint claims N.G.’s mother received an email on Aug. 26 informing her that “Wednesdays will be the dedicated Zoom learning day with their teachers …”

While speaking with the district’s Supervisor of Secondary Education, the student’s mother claimed, he confirmed the amount of teacher-led instruction days “and explained that the school ‘doesn’t have the teachers or staffing’ to provide equitable teacher time to both hybrid and virtual cohorts.”

According to the action “This will put N.G. and all those similarly situated at an educational disadvantage, as in-person students will have the tangible and intangible benefits of being guided by a teacher for an additional day, including the ability to progress through the curriculum at a faster pace.

“This will also place N.G. and other seniors at a competitive disadvantage in regard to college admissions.”

The action claims that the school district’s reopening plan announcement said “To assist the teachers/families who are working in a remote environment, we have hired an additional Instructional Support Staff to assist teachers with remote learning.

“In addition, all staff members have participated in additional Professional Development regarding remote learning this past June, and they have had the opportunity for additional learning over the summer months.”

The lawsuit said students are separated into three cohort schedules:

No. 1 – Students attend school in-person Monday and Tuesday and work remotely Wednesday through Friday.

No. 2 – Students attend school in-person Thursday and Friday and work remotely Monday through Wednesday.

No. 3 – Students (including N.G.) do not attend school in-person and work remotely Monday through Friday.

According to the lawsuit, “Reducing by 50% the amount of teacher-led instruction of students learning remotely will cause permanent, devastating, irreparable harm – harm incapable of subsequent correction.

“Those students will receive an inferior education, psychologically damaging their self-image, academically damaging to their opportunities for higher learning, and economically damaging their ability to perform in an adult world.”

The action seeks a resolution requiring the school district “to provide a number of days of teacher-led instruction equal to those enjoyed by students attending school in person, and award plaintiff her costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.”

The action was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.