Hudson parents' lawsuit challenges school district's COVID-19 policies

·3 min read
Hudson City School District Superintendent Phil Herman delivers a presentation to the Board of Education in January 2021. Herman and the district and board are being sued by three parents over the schools' COVID-19 policies.
Hudson City School District Superintendent Phil Herman delivers a presentation to the Board of Education in January 2021. Herman and the district and board are being sued by three parents over the schools' COVID-19 policies.

Three parents on Monday filed legal action against Hudson City Schools challenging the district's COVID-19 policies.

Sandra Althof, Arabella Feil and George Carson filed the civil suit on behalf of their children, and contend the district lacks the authority to require students to quarantine if they've been exposed to COVID-19 or to mandate that they wear masks in school. The plaintiffs also claim in the filing in Summit County Common Pleas Court that unvaccinated students are being treating differently than vaccinated students.

The parents are seeking a declaratory judgment stating the district cannot enforce quarantine and masking rules upon the students without a signed health department order. They've also requested a declaration that unvaccinated students may not be treated differently than vaccinated students.

“We believe the schools are exceeding their authority in terms of ordering quarantines and ordering this experimental use of masks,” said Warner Mendenhall, attorney for the parents. "The powers are outlined in state law, [the school district is] exceeding those powers. We’re just trying to rein them back in."

The defendants listed in the suit are the district and the board of education as collective entities, Superintendent Phil Herman and all five board members.

"The top priority of the Hudson City School District is to ensure a safe education for its students," Herman said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. "We have been made aware of the lawsuit, but have no further comment on the issue, since the matter is the subject of pending litigation."

All students and staff in the district are currently required to wear a mask when in school buildings and on buses.

The latest district policy issued Jan. 3 states that students and staff who are directly exposed to someone with COVID-19 can remain in the classroom if they: wear a mask for 10 days after their last date of exposure; self-monitor or parent-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19; and isolate and get tested if they start to experience symptoms of coronavirus. This policy applies to people regardless of their vaccination or masking status.

The parents' lawsuit references a policy that was announced Oct. 27 where the masking requirement was for 14 days after their last date of exposure, but gave the same instructions on monitoring for symptoms, as well as isolating and getting tested if symptoms are experienced.

The suit claims the parents’ children “have been forced to quarantine and/or mask several times on a rotating cycle. Plaintiffs’ minor children go to school, somebody inevitably identifies a child as having been in ‘close contact’ with a ‘COVID positive individual’ and the student is then forced either to wear a mask or stay home and learn from Google Classroom.”

According to the suit, a student who has a mask exemption card for religious and/or medical reasons was recently asked to quarantine at home for 10 days after they were identified as sitting close to a COVID positive student. Meanwhile, the sick child and another exposed student were allowed to return to school four days later, the suit claimed.

The school district can send a student home if they have COVID-19, but the suit stated the district "lack(s) specific statutory authority to independently order a student or employee to quarantine solely due to COVID exposure."

Noting that health departments have the authority to quarantine people based on exposure to a disease, the complaint stated: "There is no official rule or order from the Ohio Department of Health nor the Director . . . mandating the requirements Defendants are imposing upon students."

These requirements from the district, the suit said, are "detrimental to the education and social development" of the students.

The suit also claimed the district's COVID-19 policy issued in August 2021 violated state law because it allowed vaccinated children — but not unvaccinated children — to avoid quarantine.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Hudson schools' COVID-19 policies challenged in parents' legal action

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