California parents – at least one of whom voted for Gov. Gavin Newsom – loudly support the recall effort against the Democrat due to his restrictive COVID-19 policies on schools. They fear that should Newsom survive the recall Tuesday, he will impose even stricter policies, subjecting children to prolonged and unnecessary suffering.
"I want my kids to have a normal life," Suverna, a stay-at-home mother of two in Los Angeles County, told Fox News on Monday. "It's ridiculous, all these restrictions. The burden all fell on the shoulders of these young kids."
Jonathan Zachreson, founder of Reopen California Schools and a father of three who lives in Placer County, explained the evidence that shutting down schools has had a devastating impact on children.
"Child obesity is up, depression is up, kids are incredibly behind on math and reading, well behind 2019 levels," Zachreson told Fox News in an interview Monday.
"Kids need to be in school, that's just a simple fact," Daniel Bryant, a father in Sonoma County, told Fox News. "I am absolutely pro-recall," he added, calling Newsom's behavior on schools "the ultimate hypocrisy."
"My perspective is that the blame lays almost squarely with Newsom," Scott Davison, a father of one and co-director of the Parent Association in Carlsbad who helped with the lawsuit that opened California schools in March 2021, told Fox News. "At any point, he could have ordered the schools to reopen, just like he ordered them closed at the beginning of last fall."
Suverna described "multiple times" when it seemed schools would reopen, only to shut down once more.
Schools originally closed in March 2020 and did not reopen for the remainder of the school year. In the summer of 2020, Newsom promised that he would allow local control, but when some schools planned to open, the governor added schools to a color-coded tier chart that effectively kept them closed, Zachreson recalled. Several schools chose not to reopen, and Newsom allowed that. In January 2021, the governor again changed the rules, making it harder for schools to remain open.
Finally, in March 2021, a judge issued a temporary restraining order that forced Newsom to drop many of his reopening rules. Even now, schools maintain various restrictive policies, including mandatory face masks, routine COVID-19 testing and mandatory quarantines.
Meanwhile, Newsom – already infamous for dining maskless at The French Laundry restaurant in violation of COVID-19 restrictions in November 2020 – sent his four children to a private school that opened for in-person instruction full-time in November 2020, and he sent his son to a mask-optional summer camp this past summer, where photos of his son – maskless and inside – surfaced in July 2021. Newsom pulled his son out of the camp, but the damage had been done.
"This is the ultimate hypocrisy," Bryant told Fox News. "It's hilariously ironic that every single thing that Newsom has done breaking the rules turns out to be OK later."
Davison condemned the "hypocrisy of him sending his son to in-person education, which indicates that he didn't think it was unsafe to return to in-person learning" last year.
"How do you justify one school being able to open, and the other not?" Zachreson asked, noting that the rules for in-person learning appeared to fit Newsom's personal needs. (The private school Newsom's children attended remained open while others were forced to close.)
Bryant noted that he could not afford to send his children to private school, while Suverna – whose husband is a physician – lost the opportunity due to the shifting standards of Newsom's restrictions.
"If I had known from summertime or early fall [that schools would close again], I would have done everything I could to put my kids in private school or homeschool," the mother told Fox News. Yet by the time she learned that the school would remain closed, it was too late: "People had already enrolled in charter schools. We were left with no options."
Daniella Bloom, a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles who took her three kids out of the Los Angeles Unified School District, called Newsom the ultimate example of "do as I say, not as I do."
"His children have enjoyed private schooling. His vineyard has enjoyed staying open. He is so disconnected from the typical Californian family," Bloom told Fox News.
Each of the parents firmly supported the recall.
"I mean, a rock would be better than Newsom," quipped Zachreson, who told Fox News he voted for Newsom in 2018. "A lot of what he's done has caused harm. It would have been better for him to have just done nothing at all, in many cases."
"Those with school-aged children are more likely to support the recall than those without," he added.
"This is not a Republican recall. This is a bipartisan recall," Bloom said. She argued that Democrats are "distracted with vilifying the conservative opponents as opposed to defending Gavin Newsom's actual record, because there's nothing to defend, between the homeless crisis, the rise in crimes, and the stronghold of the teachers unions holding our children's education and livelihood hostage."
Zachreson, Davison and Suverna supported Kevin Kiley, a Republican in the California State Assembly, who spoke passionately about reopening schools.
"I’ve never seen a politician speak so passionately about people" rather than special interests, Suverna told Fox News. "I have never been so excited about a candidate," she added, saying Kiley inspired her to put up a lawn sign in her yard and a bumper sticker on her car for the first time. She even volunteered for his campaign.
Yet each of the parents also expressed worry that if Newsom survives the recall, he will impose even stricter COVID-19 restrictions.
"A lot of parents fear that Newsom has only allowed schools to be open in the fashion that they are now because of the recall, and that if cases increase this winter, he would impose school closures," Zachreson said. "We fear that he's waiting to do more until after the recall."
"We feel that he will do a big f-you if he's successful. We're like, 'lockdowns on Thursday.' That's what’s going to happen," Bloom warned.
"If he survives the recall, we have very little doubt that we'll have a lot more quarantines and school closures again," Davison told Fox News. "It's pretty clear at this point that COVID is an endemic, seasonal virus. We fully anticipate that there will be a winter surge. I have very little doubt that if he remains governor, he's going to keep the kids in masks and keep the restrictions in place."
Davison attributed these "poor policy decisions" to the "delusion that COVID is going to go away." He laid out three general policies that are still in place at many schools across California, policies which Davison is fighting against and which Newsom would likely worsen if he survives the recall.
Davison said he opposes mask mandates, arguing that "there is a ton of evidence" the mandates "make no difference for case rates in schools." He also opposes the policy of mandatory quarantines for children who may have gotten exposed, and he opposes asymptomatic testing. He noted situations in Oakland and at Rice University where false positives on COVID-19 tests briefly upended students' lives.
Davison argued that these policies are "not based on kids' actual risk of transmission and infection" but an exaggerated fear of COVID-19.
"They are so obsessed with eliminating COVID that they can’t see past the issues and they think it’s worth whatever harm comes to the kids from not being in school, so long as they never get COVID," he explained. Yet he argued that "it’s better to keep them in school, even if there’s a small risk that they’re going to get COVID."
Bryant told Fox News that the school times his daughter at lunch, giving her exactly 14 minutes to eat her food before officials force her to put her mask back on. He said the California Department of Public Health's COVID-19 guidance has led schools to impose a policy that conflicts with state education department's guidance that children get at least 20 minutes to eat lunch. Even though Bryant's daughter eats outside, it seems the school would consider 15 minutes of unmasked time in the presence of other children a "contact" for the spread of COVID-19.
Bryant also described a situation in which his daughter's entire class got sent home due to a failure in contact tracing. The class "had a possible contact on a Friday. That weekend, the kid tested positive. On Monday, they sent the kids home. They said they couldn’t perform contact tracing, whole class sent home for a week. The district sent home almost 400 kids for quarantine" while it imposed restrictions on 900 other kids.
"In-school transmission is zero. They’re over-restricting, over-quarantining," the father said. He condemned CDPH. "I give it a new name, the California Department of Public Un-Health, or CDP(U)H," he said. "They're not actually following any real science, they're just making it up as they go."
"We should stop these restrictions that we would otherwise never do for a common respiratory virus," Davison argued. He noted that "trying to keep up with everything on COVID is exhausting."
"This should be the health department’s job to keep up with this and come up with policies, but it seems like they’re just so politically motivated that they don’t really care what the science is and whether or not they’re following it," he said.
CDPH did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.
Fox News' Bradford Betz contributed to this report.