No general entitlement to distance learning due to Corona

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Wed 22nd Sep, 2021

According to a recent ruling, students have no right to distance learning due to a general health risk caused by the Corona pandemic. Such a claim can only be considered in the case of an individual health risk to the students themselves or their family members living in the household, the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia (OVG) explained in Münster on Wednesday. It rejected thereby the complaint of a High School pupil from the 8. class against an emergency resolution of the Administrative Court Duesseldorf (Az: 19 B 1458/21, I. Instanz VG Duesseldorf 7 L 1811/21).

The Düsseldorf student had reportedly claimed that his right to physical integrity took precedence over the obligation to attend school in the current pandemic situation. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia had also taken "insufficient protective measures" against the infection of schoolchildren with the coronavirus. The 19th Senate of the OVG did not follow this argumentation.

According to the specifications of the NRW school ministry, a release from attendance classes could be considered for the protection of pre-infected relatives, but only in narrowly defined exceptional cases and temporarily, according to the unappealable court decision. The student, however, had not invoked such pre-existing conditions.

In the pandemic situation, lawmakers and the government had to weigh "the tension between fundamental individual rights and compulsory education," the court argued. In doing so, both the risk of infection and possible secondary diseases as well as health, psychological and social impairments caused by continued distance learning had to be evaluated, and the state had leeway to make a decision.

According to the OVG, the decision to return to face-to-face teaching "satisfies the requirements of fundamental rights with regard to the state's duty to protect pupils" and is also in line with human rights. At present, it is justifiable to maintain face-to-face teaching while observing the mask requirement, with access restrictions for community facilities, tests in schools and accompanying quarantine regulations.

Image by Marc Thele


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