Parents of Disabled Child Sue Pennsylvania School to Reinstate Mask Mandate

Parents argue mask optional policy is discrimination
By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje is a national, investigative journalist covering politics, wrongdoing, and the stories of everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. Send her your story ideas:
February 28, 2022Updated: February 28, 2022

The parents of a medically fragile 6-year-old child are suing the Cumberland Valley School District in Pennsylvania to change its masking policy from masks optional back to mandatory masking for all.

By permitting optional masking, the school board forces the parents of medically fragile children with disabilities into an unfair decision of keeping the child home and safe, or sending them to school and risk being exposed to COVID-19, says the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Universal masking in Pennsylvania schools had been implemented by the state health department in 2020 to curtail the spread of COVID-19, but in December 2021, a court said the health department didn’t have the authority to continue requiring masking without a continued state emergency order. This put masking decisions in the hands of school boards.

On Jan. 3, Cumberland Valley School Board made masking optional.

But the parents who brought the lawsuit say this makes it unsafe, and the school is denying access to a public building by a protected class of disabled individuals by implementing the mask order. They compared it to removing all the wheelchair ramps from school buildings, which would be a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The names of the parents in this case are unknown. It is filed by Jane Doe 1 and John Doe 1, who is also medically fragile. They are the parents of Child Doe 1 and other children who could potentially bring the virus home from school.

This is a class action suit, meaning it could cover all students in the district with medical issues protected by the ADA who may require a masked environment. That could include students with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chorionic liver or kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, blood disorders, compromised immune systems, cancer, or spinal cord injury. Court papers estimate some 1,600 students in the school district are in this protected disabled class, and say allowing optional masking is discrimination.

The parents asked for an emergency order granting a temporary restraining order, which would require the school to reinstate masking while the court case is ongoing. District Judge Christopher C. Conner said he would make a decision on that only after hearing from the school. A hearing is scheduled for March 5.

Cumberland Valley School District’s attorney, Michael Cassidy, told The Epoch Times he could not comment on pending litigation.

The Doe Parent’s attorney, Alexander Saksen did not respond to requests for comment.

Parent Thomas Quinn Jr. has four students in the district, including one who had to stop attending in person because the masks impacted his health. Quinn suggests letting students vote on the masks.

“The children are affected most,” Quinn told The Epoch Times. “We say their opinion matters, but when it comes down to it, we often tell them to shut up. Well, it’s time to hear their opinion and stop injecting our words into their minds.

“I’m personally tired of people stamping their feet, like a toddler, every time moves are made to return to normalcy,” Quinn said. “The needs of the many should be more important than the needs of the few. This parent isn’t comfortable with the masks being optional? Fine. Go virtual. That’s your option.”