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Parents sue Georgia’s largest school district over mask requirement

DCNFKendall Tietz, DCNF

Parents in Georgia’s largest school district are suing the superintendent and school system over its mask mandate, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Four parents are seeking an injunction against the mask mandate at Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS), which serves around 180,000 students, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported. The requirement was implemented at the end of July when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended indoor masking for schools amid the rise of the delta variant.

The lawsuit claims that GCPS’ mask requirement violates Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s July executive order, which stripped public school districts’ ability to mandate masks for students and employees, the AJC reported. In May, an earlier executive order said schools were not allowed to use the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration as a pretense for requiring masks, though it didn’t completely ban requirements.

The lawsuit cited a study from the Journal of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology that found “Prolonged use of N95 and surgical masks by healthcare professionals during COVID-19 has caused adverse effects such as headaches, rash, acne, skin breakdown, and impaired cognition in the majority of those surveyed,” the AJC reported. The lawsuit also claims the mask mandate violates free speech, which is protected by a provision in the state’s constitution.

“The School District intends the Mask Mandate to coercively convey an affiliation with a particular political party,” the suit says, the AJC reported.

Parents of the Gwinnett district started pushing back against masks in the spring, The AJC reported. In July, around 300 anti-mask protestors congregated outside a school board meeting during Superintendent Calvin Watts’ confirmation.

The lawyer for this lawsuit, Mitch Skandalakis, also represented the Cobb County parents who legally challenged mask requirements in the county’s school district last year, the AJC reported.

“The school district will defend its authority and obligation to follow public health guidance to protect our students and staff,” school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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