Judge denies injunction challenging state-wide public school mask mandate

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A preliminary injunction challenging COVID-19 mask mandates set by the state was denied Nov. 16 by Hampden County Superior Court Judge David Hodge.

The case is a consolidation of six lawsuits, all of which challenge the statewide COVID-19 mask mandate in public schools authorized Aug. 24 by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The requirement for K-12 public schools is now in effect until at least Jan. 15.

One of the lawsuits named Sandwich Public Schools as a defendant. Named were a total of 18 public school districts and two municipalities.

The plaintiffs in the case — The Family Freedom Endeavor, The People's Freedom Endeavor, Children's Health Rights of Massachusetts, Citizens for Medical Freedom and 10 individual parents of students — argued the defendants did not have the authority to enforce mask mandates. They also argued that the parents’ fundamental rights to make health and safety decisions for their children were being violated, and that the practice of wearing masks is ineffective and harmful.

What did the plaintiffs argue?

The lawsuit said the true objective of the mask mandate was not to eliminate risk for students and staff, but to incentivize vaccinations, since the mask mandate includes a provision that vaccinated individuals may remove their masks if at least 80% of school staff and students are vaccinated.

Additionally, it says the defendants’ use of a statute to justify their authority to ensure a safe environment for students only applies to the structural environment of the school building, and not masking.

The complaint also says the defendants do not define “exigent circumstances,” which are necessary to invoke the statute.

The suit goes on to say that wearing masks for long periods causes psychological harm to children.

How did the judge explain his denial?

In his ruling, Hodge said that for a preliminary injunction to be approved, the plaintiffs would need to show that “irreparable injury would occur without immediate injunctive relief.”

Hodge said the defendants have the authority to make sure that students are able to attend classes in a safe and healthy environment.

He also said the evidence provided by the plaintiffs to support the claim that the practice of wearing masks was lacking.

He says that “exigent circumstances” were present, since Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency and the delta variant caused a rise in cases.

As for the argument that parents’ fundamental rights are being violated, Hodge wrote: “Parental rights do not include the liberty to expose the community or child to communicable diseases.”

He goes on to say that public school entities do have the authority to protect the general welfare of their students.

The next court event is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2023.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Preliminary injunction to MA school mask mandate denied by judge

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