Missoula School Mask Lawsuit Filed: Parents have “fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of their children”
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Stand Up Montana and 11 parents are the plaintiffs listed in a lawsuit filed yesterday against Missoula County Public Schools and Missoula County. Other defendants in the suit include Elementary District 1, High School District 1, Target Range School District, and Hellgate Elementary School District. In an interview with KGVO, the attorney representing the parents, Quentin Rhoades, indicated that dozens more families not listed in the suit are represented by the suit:
“We’ve done this at the behest of 20 some odd families,” Rhoades said. “We haven’t included all of those families in the complaint. We’re representing the lead plaintiff Stand Up Montana, which is a nonprofit organization out of Bozeman, whose mission is to push back against non scientific COVID-19 responses.”
The parents lawsuit asks for an injunction and restraining order against mask mandates from the Missoula County school districts. The parent’s suit advocates on behalf of their children’s own constitutional rights asserting that the school district and county have infringed on the children’s right to privacy, dignity, and free expression. The suit states that the government has not provided a “compelling” reason why masks should be required.
This is an action for injunctive relief brought by Plaintiffs on their behalf and on behalf of their minor children. Plaintiffs, the parents of minor children enrolled in Defendants’ schools, seek a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction against Defendants’ mandatory masking rules implemented in their schools as a response to COVID-19. Plaintiffs’ legal bases spring from the Montana and U.S. Constitutions. Under federal constitutional law, Plaintiffs, as parents of minor children, have a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of their children. Under Montana constitutional law, Plaintiffs, as legal guardians of their children, have a right to invoke their children’s fundamental constitutional rights. Defendants’ mask mandates infringe on the rights of Plaintiffs and their children to privacy, dignity, and free expression without the necessary showing of a compelling government interest in doing so. See, Art. II, §§ 4, 10, 15, and 34 Mont. Const. Defendants’ mask mandates are therefore unconstitutional and, to prevent irreparable harm, Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief.Missoula Parents vs Public Schools and County Lawsuit. Stand Up Montana. August 25 2021.
Two parents listed in the suit unenrolled their children from Target Range School District because of the mask mandate.
Missoula parents have been attending school board meetings over the past month and half, voicing their concerns about school mask policies. The Hellgate School Board initially voted for a mask-choice policy in July, but suddenly mandated masks just prior to the start of the school year with little parental notice or consultation.
At the beginning of August, MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson abruptly shutdown in-person access to a final public meeting on masks citing parking for the Western Montana Fair, even though the fair was not set to start until the day after the school board meeting.
The lawsuit states that before the suit was filed parents had reached out to the school districts in an attempt to avoid litigation to “demand their school board trustees reconsider and reject the mask mandates.” The suit states that, at the time of filing, no parents received a response from school districts to their demands.
The suit cites a mountain of evidence against masking and a startling lack of scientific evidence for masking. In the 52-page suit the parents refute the narrative that masks work by pointing to CDC data on infections and mortality and existing data on mask effectiveness. Their points include:
- That CDC data show that the flu is more deadly to those under 18 than COVID-19.
- That mask mandates do not have any measurable effect in reducing transmissions.
- That asymptomatic spread of the virus is extremely rare and very low in even moderate symptomatic cases (~5%).
- That, ultimately, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, “desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”
- That randomized control studies conducted even before the pandemic indicated that face masks do not work for any influenza-like illness.
- That lab-controlled environments showed at most moderate effectiveness of a surgical masks to keep out aerosolized virus particles with no rigorous evidence to show it has an effect on infections or hospitalizations.
- The amount of particles emitted in a minute of speaking is about 700,000 and an infectious dose of the virus is about 300.
- That the World Health Organization stated in interim guidance, “a mask alone, even when it is used correctly, is insufficient to provide adequate protection or source control.”
- The WHO also stated that a mask “is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection for an uninfected individual or prevent onward transmission from an infected individual (source control),” but they still recommend masking “despite the limited evidence of protective efficacy of mask wearing in community settings.”
- The Centers for Disease Control guidance used to be consistent with WHO guidance until 2020.
- That CDC justifications for mask policy include anecdotes from two hairdressers and a study where masks were used on mannequins in a lab-controlled environment.
- CDC guidance that points out that masks won’t protect you from smoke particles which are larger than aerosolized virus particles.
- Counties with mask mandates have worse outcomes than counties with no mask mandates.
- Mask wearing has severe psychological side-effects in addition to physiological side-effects for children according to a study that found high percentages of headaches, fatigue, distractedness, and irritability amongst children.
- People should be allowed to choose and not be coerced with little scientific evidence.
- Masks are one-size-fits-all and do not consider someone’s existing immunity to the virus.
- That the mask debate distracts from other important decisions.
The suit also says that the actions of the defendants have the effect of eroding the publics trust of county officials, medical professionals, and scientific information. It goes on to say that officials are creating a “boy who cries wolf” situation where the public will be skeptical of recommendations from these institutions when real threats emerge.
The suit also alleges incompetency on the part of school board trustees noting that they had not provided any compelling government interest including providing compelling evidence that masks work to justify such an interest. The suit states that school board trustees did not “retain or rely upon” any competent professional (such as a virologist) to justify their mask policies.
The suit’s six counts against the county and the school districts include: that the county and the school districts are violating due process by forcing an unwanted medical treatment on an individual; that they are violating equal protection because while students are required to wear masks, the general population is not required to wear masks even though they are at a larger risk for infection; that they are violating privacy rights and the ability for parents to choose their own medical treatment; that continuing the mask mandate would be a violation of HB-400 which will give parents the ultimate authority to direct the health care of their child; that they are violating the human dignity of the parents and the children by hindering their ability to express and communicate with their face and their ability to decide how to appear in public; and that due to the lack of scientific evidence, wearing a mask is perceived as submission to the government and it violates parent’s and children’s ability to freely express their political viewpoints.
The lawsuit also seeks reimbursement for attorneys fees and any other relief the judge may deem appropriate.
The filing includes a 20-page affidavit used in another lawsuit against Missoula County from a biostatistician detailing how the metrics being used by health authorities are skewing the reality of the virus and do not present a compelling need for most of their responses to COVID-19.
“When it comes to showing that there’s a compelling government interest sufficient to overcome your constitutional right to make your own healthcare decisions, the burden of showing that falls on the government,” Rhoades said. “So they’re the ones that have to come in and show the proof that if we don’t mask these people up, they’re going to die. And they’re the ones that are going to have to convince the court that it’s a public health crisis and it can only be solved with masks.”
A legal fund has been organized on GoFundMe, already raising $10,000 of the $30,000 goal.
Read the suit below:Complaint-and-Exh-A