The ACLU and First Amendment Attorneys Pressure Department to Back Down
After pressure from the ACLU and First Amendment attorneys, the Department of Education has decided to pull back on its efforts to limit court testimony from a professor. The move, which was first reported by POLITICO, was seen as a victory for free speech rights.
Importance of the Department’s Decision
Public Counsel attorney Mark Rosenbaum emphasized the significance of the Department of Education’s decision, stating that it is crucial for the professor, the ongoing case, and social scientists in general. Rosenbaum noted that the department’s decision was not driven by suddenly recognizing the importance of the First Amendment, but rather by the realization that they were likely to lose the case.
Reaction from the CDE
Maria Clayton, spokesperson for the California Department of Education (CDE), declined to comment on the pending litigation. It is unclear how the CDE will proceed following the department’s decision.
Recognition of Overly Broad Limits on Court Testimony
In a letter to researchers, Lin Garfinkel, an attorney for the Department of Education, acknowledged the criticism regarding the overly broad limits on court testimony. Garfinkel stated that the department looks forward to continuing its working relationship with the researchers, indicating a potential shift in their approach.
Lawsuit Filed over Distance Learning Inequalities
The lawsuit, filed in state court in 2020 by nonprofit law firm Public Counsel and international firm Morrison & Foerster, targets the state’s failure to address learning loss suffered by students during the pandemic. Attorneys argued that disadvantaged students continue to fall behind and called for stricter accountability measures for schools. The case is scheduled for trial in November.
Threats and Withdrawals of Testimony
Professor Dee and Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon were both set to testify in the case, having conducted research on the disparities of remote learning. However, Reardon withdrew his testimony after the CDE threatened him with a $50,000 fine and revoked his access to department data. Dee faced similar threats, prompting the ACLU to file a brief supporting his right to testify.
Next Steps for Public Counsel
Public Counsel is seeking a hearing next week to secure a commitment from department attorneys to allow Professor Dee to testify in the case. The outcome of this hearing will play a crucial role in the trial for the learning loss case slated for November.