Students with Disabilities Receive Court Order to Reinstate Distance Learning 

A win for concerned parents of students with disabilities could also benefit students across California
Press Release

Students with Disabilities Receive Court Order to Reinstate Distance Learning 

A young boy with an intellectual disability trying to learn at home. His mom is trying to help him.
Facebook icon
Twitter icon
LinkedIn icon
Email icon

(San Francisco, CA) On November 4, 2021, a federal judge affirmed the wishes of disability advocates and ordered the State of California to provide meaningful access to virtual instruction to a group of 15 students with disabilities who cannot safely attend school in person. Judge Susan Illston of the United States District Court, Northern District of California, found that these students had suffered irreparable harm from Assembly Bill (AB) 130, a new state law adopted in July 2021, that limits access to distance learning. From this new law, many families who wanted remote learning for students with disabilities, including those who need it for health reasons, have been denied accommodations, support, and services, leaving independent study the only option for remote learning in the 2021-2022 school year. 

The Court held that the Student Plaintiffs had shown that AB 130 likely denies them the benefits of public education on the basis of their disability. The Court’s ruling was in response to a motion for a temporary restraining order filed on October 22, 2021.

“For me to choose between my daughter’s health and school, it’s pretty easy for me; she does ask and doesn’t understand why she can’t see her friends and teachers and therapists,” says one of the students’ parents.

Although the ruling only applies to 15 students, the Court is set to hear Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction on November 30, 2021, which could impact students across California.  

"The ruling is the first step in freeing districts to do what they know is necessary and right, but which they have been prohibited from doing by this badly discriminatory law. Districts know how to provide quality programs to students with disabilities through a distance-learning model, but the constraints imposed by AB 130 have forced them to deny such programs to students who have the most significant disability-related learning challenges," says David German, of Vanaman German LLP.

“The 15 students have been without access to an education since the school year began. These are students who made progress during distance learning only to have their education abruptly interrupted because of the limits imposed by AB 130. This ruling affirms their right to equal access to a safe, virtual learning program,” says Lauren Lystrup, of Disability Rights California.

“Our organization has been flooded with calls from families with disabled children who are at high risk of severe outcomes from COVID,” said Susan Henderson, Executive Director of Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. “The state created this dire situation by failing to consider children with disabilities, once again leaving them behind. I’m glad the judge saw this for the unlawful discrimination that it is.”

The families and organizations are represented by Disability Rights California (DRC), Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), and the law firm of Vanaman German, LLP.  The lawsuit was originally filed on September 28, 2021, filing a civil rights complaint for violating the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). DREDF and the Arc of California, both organizations that advocate for people with disabilities, are also complainants.

Media Contacts

Melody Pomraning
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5938

Lawrence Carter-Long
Communications Director
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
(510) 644-2555 x. 5256



Disability Rights California (DRC) - Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit:

Vanaman German LLP is a private law firm whose practice focuses exclusively on fighting for the educational rights of students with disabilities.

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) is a national, nonprofit law and policy center led by people with disabilities and dedicated to advancing and protecting the civil and human rights of disabled people. As a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) funded by the US Department of Education, DREDF serves families of children with disabilities and disabled young adults in 33 California counties.