A federal court Tuesday dismissed a former Laramie High School student’s lawsuit against the local school district over its 2021 mask mandate, saying Grace Smith hasn’t shown that the school’s actions caused her actual harm.
Smith and her parents, Andy and Erin Smith, last month sued past and present Albany County School District No. 1 board trustees, the district superintendent and the Laramie High School principal, alleging the district enforced an unlawful mask mandate in 2021 without authority from state or county health officers.
The Smiths claimed that the mask mandate caused Smith to be unjustly suspended from school in her junior year and later arrested for trespassing, and that it caused other constitutional harms.
In a Tuesday order dismissing the case, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Nancy Freudenthal said the Smiths failed to show that Grace Smith endured any harms that weren’t self-inflicted — in part because Laramie High School had offered a virtual-schooling option to students who wouldn’t comply with the mask mandate.
“The closest that Plaintiffs get to an ‘actual’ injury in fact is (Grace Smith’s) own decision to forego virtually attending school, continuing trespassing on school property, and voluntarily withdrawing from Laramie High School,” wrote Freudenthal. “Plaintiffs lack an injury in fact required for standing; at least one that is not self-inflicted.”
This case was the Smiths' second case stemming from the school mask mandate. Along with other plaintiffs, they also sued Gov. Mark Gordon and other parties in 2021, but the court dismissed that case the following year when the plaintiffs' attorney failed to respond to multiple motions to dismiss the case.
No More Pandemic
Freudenthal also wrote that Smith is not likely to suffer harms at the hands of school administrators in the future. She is no longer a student in the school, the COVID-19 pandemic is over and the mask mandate has lapsed.
“One can debate the effectiveness and necessity of certain measures enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is not the role of this Court to do so,” wrote Freudenthal. “There is no subject matter jurisdiction which empowers the Court to hear these claims.”
With that, Freudenthal dismissed the Smiths’ three civil claims tied to federal law, which had accused the school of violating Grace Smith’s free-speech and due-process rights under the U.S. Constitution, and her parents’ due-process right to dictate their child’s health care decisions.
The Smiths’ other three claims accusing the district of exceeding its authority and challenging a state law, were linked to state law, Freudenthal wrote. And since she doesn’t have a mechanism to hear argument on the federal claims, then she can’t grandfather the state claims into her federal court, the order says.
In 2021, Smith was a junior in high school when she refused to comply with Laramie High School’s mask mandate that autumn. School officials suspended her from school three times. She refused to leave school Oct. 5, 2021, after her second suspension, so the school summoned the Laramie Police Department and an officer issued Smith a $500 citation for trespassing.
She refused to leave school once again Oct. 7, 2021, after her third suspension. That time, a LPD officer arrested her and took her to the police department, where agents booked her for trespassing.
Meanwhile, the school went into lockdown mode to prevent “further interruptions,” a district spokesman said at the time.
Smith withdrew from Laramie High School on Oct. 13, 2021.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.