Coronavirus

Indiana parents ask judge to declare school mask mandate as illegal

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WISH) — A group of parents have asked a judge to declare a school district’s mask mandate as being illegal.

Chris and Natalie Forbing, Mike Bell, Jacquelyn and Eric Christman, and Andrew Fresinger filed a lawsuit on behalf of their children against state and Northwest Allen County Schools officials.

One parent notes in the lawsuit that her child was denied a mask exemption. One set of parents said Indiana’s quarantine laws excluded them from school without reasonable cause.

In addition to declaring the school district’s mask mandate as being illegal, the parents also asked It also asks a judge to declare COVID-19 guidelines issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb and Dr. Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner, as being unconstitutional. Those guidelines including mask use, contact tracing, and quarantine policies for schools.

The parents also argued that the State Department of Health’s two-tier system exempting students from quarantines if they present proof of vaccination violated Indiana’s vaccine passport ban.

Northwest Allen County Schools includes households with Fort Wayne and Churubusco addresses located northwest of the city of Fort Wayne. The case was filed in Allen Superior Court 9. An initial hearing has been set for Dec. 31.

The lawsuit says, “Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have returned to normal life. Businesses have reopened. The streets and public spaces, once eerily silent, now bustle with activity. High school, collegiate, and professional athletes once played in empty venues. Today, they compete in sold-out stadiums overflowing with unmasked, raucous crowds. It seems that everywhere America is moving forward and beyond the COVID-19 restrictions that shuttered countless businesses and transformed daily life. Everywhere, that is, except our K-12 schools.”

Children younger than 12 are not yet authorized to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. Children and adolescents younger than 18 are not authorized to receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson-Janssen COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use.

Allen Superior Judge David J. Avery has ordered the parties to come together Dec. 9 to appoint a mediator and set a mediation date. An initial hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 31 in Allen Superior Court 9. 

Fort Wayne attorney Kevin John Mitchell represents the parents. He recently spoke with WOWO radio in Fort Wayne about what led to the case. In that interview, he said the web of restrictions is too confusing and a burden for parents and students. “It’s this entire structure of the what’s called the contract tracing that leads to the quarantine that is what ultimately the lawsuit is focusing on, because when you look at what’s happening in the schools, you see student after student that’s being turned away and sent home not because they have any symptoms, but because they’re told they were a close contact or even a close contact of a close contact. There’s an entire system in place that parents really can’t seem to get their mind around.”

Statement

“Our focus remains on meeting the needs of our students. Eventually time and taxpayer monies will have to be redirected from meeting the needs of children to address the lawsuit filed by a few parents. We are confident that the courts will ultimately rule in our favor. Continuing to provide opportunities for students to access learning onsite in a healthy and safe learning environment remains our priority.”

Northwest Allen County Schools

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