Parents sue schools over mask policies

·3 min read

Jul. 7—Twenty-three parents have united to sue three school districts over mask policies they say are putting students in danger.

The Londonderry School District, Epping School District, and Timberlane Regional School District — including students from Plaistow, Atkinson, Sandown and Danville — are named as defendants in the civil lawsuit filed July 2.

The lawsuit challenges policies requiring students to wear face masks while in school or participating in school-related activities. Attorney Robert Fojo says the plaintiffs, all of whom he represents, repeatedly took their concerns to school officials before hiring him.

Fifteen parents are from Londonderry, two each from Plaistow and Danville, and one each from Sandown, Atkinson, Epping and Tilton. Court paperwork explains that the Tilton parent sends a student to South Elementary School in Londonderry.

Collectively, the plaintiffs have students ranging from grades K-12. They're asking a judge to declare that the school administrative units violated a state law that limits the use of child restraints. They also want to be awarded attorney fees.

The lawsuit states, "There is compelling evidence now that face masks not only have not prevented the spread of COVID-19, but they are harmful to children."

It goes on, "Masks are worthless, aside from their performative relief it provides certain people. They are no more than a 'psychological crutch.'"

Fojo explains in court documents that some of the plaintiffs' children have learning and focus-related issues, experience anxiety on a normal basis, and have difficulty breathing without a face mask.

He points out that New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu's statewide mask mandate expired April 16. Soon after, on June 11, the state of emergency also ended.

Still, according to the court filing, members of the Timberlane Regional School Board have maintained a May 20 decision that the district "will continue using current mask protocols through the end of the 2021-2022 school year." Those protocols require masks in all buildings and grounds for all students and staff.

The ruling is harsher than a summer school policy last modified June 24, which recommends mask-wearing in all buildings during summer programs based on a color-coded chart. No masks are required in the green zone, when there are 0 to 50 active cases of COVID-19 reported by the state in Rockingham County.

Masks or 3 feet of distance is required when there are 51 to 100 cases of COVID-19 reported, indicated by the yellow zone. The most serious red zone requires masks or 6 feet of distancing when there are more than 100 cases of the virus reported county-wide.

As of the filing of the lawsuit, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services reported 39 active cases in Rockingham County, where all three school districts operate.

In Londonderry at a June 8 School Board meeting, parents made "lengthy, passionate pleas to the board to end the district's mask requirement," the lawsuit explains.

One School Board member attempted to make mask-wearing optional but did not receive any supporting votes.

The lawsuit states, "Children and healthy adults under 60 have not been at risk with this virus. COVID-19 presents a statistically insignificant threat to the health of children, young adults, and healthy adults of middle and even slightly advanced age."

Fojo makes similar arguments in separate, ongoing lawsuits in which he has represented parents in the Hollis/Brookline School District and the Bedford School District since late-May.

None of the defendants formally responded to the latest lawsuit as of press time for this article. The case is scheduled to go before a judge in Rockingham Superior Court on Sept. 2.

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