A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by Northland parents opposed to mask mandates and quarantine policies in seven school districts along with cities of Kansas City and North Kansas City. The judge noted Northland Parent Association did not provide enough evidence that children were harmed by schools’ masking requirements.

Court opinion

The court opinion from U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr. states the parent association failed to allege members or their children were subject to quarantines based on defendant policies; suffered injury as a result of mask exemption policies; or that members or their children “have bona fide religious beliefs against wearing face masks, applied for a religious exemption or were denied an exemption from any of the school districts.”

“Plaintiff has failed to show that its claimed injuries are concrete and particularized and has only shown that its injuries are conjectural and hypothetical,” United States district judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr. wrote, in part, in his opinion.

The Northland Parent Association is a group of parents in Clay and Platte counties represented by attorney and former state Rep. Kevin Corlew. The group filed its lawsuit this summer against the two cities and Excelsior Springs, Kearney, Liberty, Park Hill, Platte County, North Kansas City and Smithville school districts.

Reaction

to judge’s action

Parent Association representative Natalie Scholl said the organization is disappointed in the judge’s opinion that the group did not have “legal standing.” The original 70-plus page suit from the group cited research articles calling into question effectiveness of masks and stated quarantine guidelines are not consistently applied and enforced.

Scholl said she feels the judge did not read the group’s complaint and instead “parroted the defendants’ arguments.”

“We are disappointed in the judge’s ruling because the legal basis in our lawsuit was sound. But, I’m more disappointed that our kids, many of who have health concerns and disabilities, will continue to suffer under overreaching restrictions that have been, basically, unlawfully imposed,” Scholl told the Courier-Tribune.

The judge’s opinion comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated its recommendation of universal mask-wearing in schools regardless of vaccination status.

Beth Farr, a founder of Liberty Parents for Liberty Public Schools, said she is pleased to see the court choosing science for everyone.

“It’s about protecting the whole group, not just a portion of students,” she said. “We want to show support to the district. We have been dealing with this for almost two years. I want to see those who follow science and protect all the people. By continuing with masks, we can have make sure everyone has access to school.”

A release from Liberty Public Schools states the focus continues to be providing safe and healthy learning environments for the staff and students during the pandemic, which includes universal masking.

“We also feel that it is important to celebrate that we have been able to provide five days per week of in-person learning for our students for the entirety of this semester. This work has certainly not been easy, and our entire LPS team should be commended for their efforts.”

Scholl said the parent association board of seven would meet this week to discuss further legal options.

“I think that this judge just did not want to get involved in this political issue, which is what it is,” she said.

Smithville Superintendent Todd Schuetz said the district appreciates the court’s consideration in the matter.

“We will continue to pursue policies that promote a safe and productive learning environment for students and staff,” he said.

On Monday, Nov. 29, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas took to Twitter to thank the Kansas City Attorney’s office for its successful defense “of the mask rules to help fight the spread of COVID in schools among our young people.”

“Their safety is paramount, particularly as we face new variants,” wrote the Kansas City mayor.

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