Judge halts mask exemption in Douglas County Schools

Coronavirus

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (KDVR) — Students and staff in Douglas County schools will be wearing masks again after a federal judge ruled that a mask exemption issued by the county’s health department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

U.S. District Judge John Kane ruled students and staff must wear masks while at school and that the health department’s exemption policy put students with disabilities at risk. 

“There is significant risk to the plaintiffs,” Kane said in his ruling.

Douglas County schools sued the Douglas County Health Department last week on behalf of nine families with children with disabilities.

Those families claimed their children’s civil rights were being violated by the mask exemption. The students have health conditions including cystic fibrosis and diabetes which makes them more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19.

“I feel like I’m forced to choose my son’s health and safety over his education,” the mother of a Douglas County student with cystic fibrosis testified.  The mother, who was identified by initials K.G., said she loses sleep over the lack of masks wearing. 

Douglas County Superintendent Cory Wise testified in the last two weeks the school granted 4,500 student exemptions and more than 500 exemptions for teachers and staff.  

Douglas County’s mask exemption was adopted Oct. 8 and required a parent’s signature stating they feel a mask would have a negative impact on their child. A hearing will take place Nov. 8 to decide on a permanent resolution.

The Douglas County Board of Health released a statement in response to the ruling:

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order. We remain confident that when we have more time to make a full case we will be able to demonstrate that the Douglas County Board of Health struck the proper balance of public health protection and parental involvement in health care decisions for their children. Our Order allowed the school district to continue its mask mandate even though the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lifted its statewide mask mandate for students in July. We would continue to encourage the Douglas County Board of Education to make partners of all parents in decisions that fundamentally impact their children.”

Douglas County Board of Health

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