By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
At least two school districts and the Wyoming Department of Health have asked a U.S. District Court to dismiss a lawsuit that mask requirements in place in some schools across the state be ruled unconstitutional and declared void.
Sheridan County School District No. 2, Laramie County School District No. 1 and the Wyoming Department of Health have all filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed in early November on behalf of Laramie student Grace Smith and 10 others.
The Sheridan school district filed its motion on Nov. 19, while Cheyenne schools and the WDH filed motions on Tuesday.
In its brief in support of its request for dismissal, the Sheridan district said the 128-page lawsuit was not prepared according to the rules governing federal court action.
“Instead, it is the type of verbose diatribe that federal courts regularly condemn,” the brief said. “The allegations are not stated in simple, concise, and direct terms…but rather are lengthy and argumentative, and include many references to extrinsic materials that Petitioners believe support their theories concerning Covid-19.”
The initial lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 2 alleges that rules adopted by some districts requiring students to wear masks while in class, observe social distancing and to quarantine when exposed to coronavirus have been improperly adopted.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 plaintiffs, including Smith, the Laramie High School student who was arrested on a charge of trespass recently for refusing to wear a face mask inside the high school.
In addition to Smith and her father, the lawsuit names as plaintiffs the parents of other students from schools across the state.
The 128-page lawsuit alleges Gov. Mark Gordon, the Wyoming Department of Health, state Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, six school districts and county health officers in five counties imposed various coronavirus-related restrictions and requirements even though they lacked the authority to do so. The school districts are in Sheridan, Albany, Laramie, Goshen, Sweetwater and Uinta counties.
“Each and every one of these various (executive orders), health orders and policies were, and continue to be issued arbitrarily without lawful authority which resulted in confusing and chaotic outcomes such as the closing of businesses, limited government service, limited business services, the closing of schools and day care facilities, and the mandatory wearing of face coverings that serve no medical purpose as to the declared emergency as a few examples,” the lawsuit said. “These various arbitrary decisions have resulted in many and repeated violations of the petitioners’ rights and liberties.”
The lawsuit asks the court to find there was never an imminent threat to Wyoming’s residents, that Gordon’s initial emergency declaration was unconstitutional, that school districts have no authority to impose such mandates and that all such orders should be lifted immediately.
However, the Cheyenne school district said in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit that the complaint suffered from “a serious jurisdictional infirmity,” a point also raised by the Wyoming Department of Health.
“Although the amended complaint references federal law, it does not identify any specific provision of the United State’s Constitution or any federal statute that would provide the basis for the Court to have jurisdiction,” the WDH motion read. “Rather, petitioners only complain about actions taken by the respondents under State law.”
The court has not yet granted or denied the dismissal from any of these entities, though.
Smith was arrested at Laramie High School in October for trespassing. She had been suspended due to her refusal to wear a mask, as the Albany County School District 1 has a mask mandate in place, and would not leave school grounds after being repeatedly told to do so.
She has since withdrawn from the high school to attend her junior year online, but has not ruled out returning to Laramie High for her senior year.