Southern California parents are fighting back against school COVID-19 rules, including mask mandates, quarantining and testing, filing lawsuits claiming that children are being harmed and their civil rights are being violated.
Two years after the pandemic began—and after schools statewide were closed for around 18 months, California schools are still enforcing various measures to contain the virus.
And a growing number of parents have had enough.
Irvine Parent Tiffany Craft said she escorted her second-grade daughter to her Cypress Village Elementary school classroom on Jan. 14 unmasked in an act of civil disobedience.
The move came after district spokeswoman Raianna Chavez told Craft that she and her daughter could face arrest for violating the mandate.
“[E]lecting to violate the required mask mandate would mean significant legal, financial, and liability risks not to mention both civil and criminal liability/charges,” Chavez wrote to Craft in a Jan. 10 email.
Since then, an attorney for the Craft family demanded the school abandon the mask mandate or face personal civil rights violation lawsuits.
Ultimately, Craft’s daughter was not allowed to enter the classroom despite the mother explaining that wearing a mask had a detrimental impact on her child’s health and wellbeing by affecting “her learning, hearing, and concentration.”
Craft is now working with The Gavel Project, a non-profit civil rights firm, which plans to file suit against the district in the coming weeks.
“Her daughter engaged in active peaceful civil disobedience by exercising her free speech rights to refuse to wear an article of clothing, and she was disciplined for it by the Irvine Unified School District, barred from entering class and was thereby suspended from having an education,” Ryan Heath, founder of The Gavel Project, told The Epoch Times.
Heath asserted the school girl’s rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution and backed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Any citizen … has the absolute right to refuse to comply with COVID-19 mandates generally, because the act of refusal is an act of free speech,” Heath said. “It’s the same thing as burning an American flag in the park or refusing to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Also, this week, on Jan. 18, some Placentia-Yorba Linda School District parents and other supporters protested its mask mandates at the district’s headquarters.
“I just hope and pray that parents continue to get involved. And I hope that they do what’s best for their kids,” said Linda Cone, a retired veteran teacher from another district, during the protest. “I think it would be better for kids to sit home and read a book than to be in one of these classrooms. And if enough of them do that, maybe things will change.”
Jocelyn Brodowski, a parent of two in the district, said she felt administrators have been coercing her 14-year-old daughter, who does not want to wear a mask, she said, but has concerns about “hurting her teacher’s feelings.”
“It’s all about coercion, coercing the kids. [My daughter] doesn’t want to make her teacher feel uncomfortable. She’s sensitive to not hurting her teacher’s feelings, so she’s a kind person,” Brodowski said. “But that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to have medical freedom.”
During the Jan. 19 protest, parents chanted: “We will not comply! We will not comply!,” “2, 4, 6, 8, End the Mask Mandate!,” and “Lions, not sheep!”
The following evening, some had hoped to provide public comment at the district’s school board meeting but were unable to after board president Carrie Buck abruptly ended the meeting within the first five minutes because some parents refused to wear masks.
This is the second time Buck has done this. On Jan. 11, she ended a meeting minutes after it started amid a mesh-mask debate.
At the center of that issue is a sixth grader at Travis Ranch School in Yorba Linda who, for reasons of comfort, wanted to wear a mesh mask instead of a cloth or surgical variety.
Within a few days, the student was approached by the school’s vice-principal who ordered him to change his mask and presented his parents with alternative schooling options.
“I declined it,” mother Maggie Uvalle previously told The Epoch Times. “They [school officials] say if he comes to school in that mask one more time he will not be enrolled.”
Her son has not been in school for about two weeks already, she told The Epoch Times on Jan. 21, and the mesh mask dispute is now at issue in a lawsuit against the district.
School boards across the state are violating student rights by imposing the masks, none of which have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, according to Ian Jameson, founder of Los Angeles Leftists for Choice and Unity, a group of people who lean left politically yet are against COVID-19 related mandates.
“Americans are guaranteed by law the right to refuse the use of all [emergency use] medical products. Therefore, all school districts not just in Orange County but in the United States are violating federal law by mandating students to use these [emergency use] masks,” Jameson told The Epoch Times.
According to Jameson, there are “voluminously documented adverse health consequences” regarding masks and children, including headaches, shortness of breath, and anxiety, to name a few that “make the mandating of these dangerous and useless medical devices a form of child abuse.”
“I and Los Angeles Leftists for Choice and Unity will continue to fight alongside Republicans and Americans from all ideological orientations to stop the abuse of California children,” Jameson told The Epoch Times via email.
Another group of parents, which has grown to nearly 500 members who call themselves South Bay Parents Push Back, filed their own lawsuit on Jan. 19 against local health agencies and school districts regarding mask mandate, quarantining guidance, and COVID-19 testing.
In this lawsuit, the defendants named include the California and Los Angeles County departments of public health, the California Department of Education, as well as the superintendents of and school districts in Redondo Beach, Torrance, Hermosa Beach, and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified.
“The lawsuit was initiated because after almost two years of trying to work with the districts, share our consents and complaints, and getting nowhere, we decided our only chance at fighting back would be through the courts,” said founder of the group Summer Bailey, a parent of a senior who attends a high school in the Torrance Unified School District.
In that lawsuit, parents are demanding that their children’s life be allowed to return to normal.
“The schools are abusing, harassing, and discriminating against children over guidance from the California Department of Health,” said Tracy Henderson, the parents’ attorney, in the suit. “That’s only a recommendation. What the parents want is the court to make the abuse, discrimination, and harassment stop.”
In the complaint, the petitioners claim that the implementation of COVID-19 guidelines by the school districts has caused “serious physical and emotional damage” to California’s students.