Cheyenne Schools Sued Over Mask Requirement

in News/Coronavirus

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A lawsuit filed against Cheyenne school districts seeks to have the mask requirement in place in district schools ruled unconstitutional.

The lawsuit filed in state district court in Cheyenne asks the court to rule that the school district has improperly forced some students to wear masks, taking responsibility for their medical care out of the hands of their parents.

“(U.S.) Supreme Court decisions have made explicit that the Constitution protects a person’s right to ‘refus(e) unwanted medical care,’” said the lawsuit filed Friday by Cheyenne attorney Cassie Craven. “The coercion and requirement that a student wear a mask, in spite of their explicit request to the contrary, violates the liberty and privacy interests that the (Constitution protects).”

The lawsuit filed on behalf of six students and their parents challenges the way the district’s mask requirement has been implemented, particularly in the case of one student who the lawsuit said has been bullied by staff at Jessup Elementary School over her reluctance to wear a mask.

The wearing of masks has become a political issue in schools, the lawsuit said, and students who do not wish to wear masks are treated differently than other students, a violation of constitutional guarantees for equal protection of the law.

“Some schools (have) … become a political playground where students are ridiculed for differing beliefs and teachers and officials are making medical decisions for students without lawful authority to do so,” it said. “The impact of these decisions has resulted in a discriminatory and harassing environment in which some students no longer feel safe.

“A school is no place for political discourse and lectures about medical decisions that impact one’s bodily integrity,” it continued. “To do so takes a space that is presumed safe and constitutionally required and tarnishes it beyond measure.”

Much of the lawsuit focuses on a student identified only as “M.H.,” who it said has a problem wearing the masks because of trauma-related issues she suffers as a result of an attempted kidnapping a few years earlier. It quoted her as saying “I feel like I’m being held captive in my mask.”

But the student’s requests for breaks from the mask to avoid panic attacks have been denied “and used as a source of ridicule and targeted harassment against her,” the lawsuit said, identifying one teacher in particular as “targeting” M.H.

The teacher allegedly told M.H. “we don’t want you here,” the lawsuit said. It said other students who do not wish to wear a mask also face discrimination by school staff.

“M.H.’s individual rights are being violated for the sake of an adult collective population to whom our public school system holds no constitutional duty to protect,” the lawsuit said.

Of the other five students identified in the lawsuit, two, age 15 and 9, have suffered breathing difficulties while using face masks and have complained of headaches daily, along with difficulties in concentrating.

In all but one of the cases, the lawsuit said the parents were denied the right to make medical choices for their children.

In the other case, a student was subjected to a “false quarantine order,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $100,000 for M.H. on allegations of negligence by administrators in her school and Laramie County School District No. 1. 

No damages are sought for the other students; however, the lawsuit does ask the court to find the district’s mask rule unconstitutional and a violation of the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children.

“The disciplinary protocols and other burdens being leveraged by the district to garner compliance are not proportional to the constitutional duties and statutory authority of schools,” it said. 

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