Hartford judge denies parents’ emergency request to block mask requirement in Connecticut schools

Nicholas Rondinone, Hartford Courant
·3 min read

A Hartford judge has denied an emergency request to block the state’s requirement that students wear masks in school to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The ruling from Judge Thomas Moukawsher comes after a day of testimony on Friday in which the plaintiffs, both parents of school children and the CT Freedom Alliance, presented two witnesses who spoke to the harm masks pose for children in schools and the lack of evidence that masks are effective.

In his 11-page ruling, Moukawsher wrote that the claim from the plaintiffs that masks are harmful to children both physically and mentally has not been proven. He continued that there is “very little evidence” of harm.

“Nothing the Connecticut government has done about school mask wearing has been shown as irrational and dangerous rather than, like all human action, in some ways imperfect,” Moukawsher wrote. “Indeed, it aligns with ordinary expectations.”

Moukawsher said that the plaintiffs' position seems to receive little support from both of the witnesses who testified on their behalf: Dr. Mark McDonald, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist, and Knut Wittkowski, a New York-based epidemiologist.

Regarding McDonald’s testimony, Moukawsher said that none of what he provided in testimony included scientific support that mask wearing “spells immediate disaster, catastrophe, and irreparable harm to children.”

As for Wittkowski’s testimony, Moukawsher said that Wittkowski was not an expert on masks and that he had agreed that masks work.

Moukawsher pointed to testimony from Dr. Robert Dudley, a New Britain pediatrician who serves as medical advisor for the city’s school district, who said there is no emergency and that masks are not medically dangerous.

“[Dudley] did not doubt that there are individuals who may have troubles, but he said the schools are ready to help them with reasonable accommodations,” Moukawsher wrote in his ruling.

The state also provided an exhibit that showed that 118 school districts had approved more than 200 mask exemptions total.

“No witness has claimed that the existing statewide solution of mask wearing is without drawbacks. Voices are muffled. Faces are hidden. Breathing is less free. Fear may be instilled in some," Moukawsher wrote. “Indeed, for some children these drawbacks may have serious repercussions, and the state seeks to address this possibility by allowing exemptions.”

He continued: “But the other branches of government — the ones whose job it is to do so — have judged that these mostly minimal burdens on children are outweighed by the certainty that over 213,000 American grandparents, parents, and children are dead from COVID-19 and that it is a good thing to try to reduce the death rate."

Moukawsher said previously that he intended to review the state’s motion to dismiss the case after issuing a ruling on the plaintiffs' emergency request to suspend the mask requirement.

Nicholas Rondinone can be reached at nrondinone@courant.com.

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