Court Battles

Anti-mask parents not constitutionally allowed to change school rules, says federal judge

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit from two Nevada parents seeking to challenge the state’s public school mask mandate, saying in her ruling that parents did not have the constitutional right to dictate school policies.

In their lawsuit filed in August, two Nevada parents claimed that the mask mandate, as well as their exclusion from the decisionmaking process regarding it, violated their constitutional rights as parents. However, U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer Dorsey wrote that these “perceived wrongs” were not constitutional violations.

Dorsey determined in her 22-page decision that the plaintiffs in the case had failed to demonstrate a legal basis for their claims and rejected their lawsuit.

“The Constitution does not require an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process for such broadly applicable policies, and the fundamental right to parent does not include the prerogative to dictate school health and safety policies,” wrote Dorsey.

The COVID-19 policies that the parents were seeking to challenge require all nonexempt individuals to wear masks in public settings like public and charter schools, regardless of vaccination status. The Clark County School District, where the children of the two plaintiffs attend school, also issued a mask mandate based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) orders.

The Clark County School District did offer parents the option of enrolling their children in the district’s online learning program and students who are unable to safely wear masks are allowed to request accommodations under the mandate.

In her ruling, Dorsey stated that the fundamental right of a parent to make decisions for their children does not override a public school mask policy in the midst of a pandemic.

Dorsey, an Obama appointee, also wrote that the right to send a child to school without a mask is not fundamental, pointing to cases going back more than a century in which judges ruled that the beliefs of a few objectors cannot be placed above the risks of a public health emergency like a viral outbreak.

The plaintiffs have already filed a notice of appeal.

Tags COVID-19 Jennifer Dorsey mask mandates Nevada school mask mandates Steve Sisolak Steve Sisolak
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