Updated October 27, 2021 - 8:53 am
Two lawsuits — one of which seeks $200 million in restitution — are asking different courts to overturn a COVID-19 pandemic face mask requirement for Clark County School District students.
On Friday, parents Jason Ruiz, Robert Parker and Erin Gomez filed a civil rights complaint in Clark County District Court on behalf of five children against the school district, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford.
That followed a previous lawsuit filed Sept. 20 in U.S. District Court by 14 plaintiffs on behalf of 18 children seeking to overturn the face mask mandate. It named district Superintendent Jesus Jara and the Clark County School Board as defendants.
The federal lawsuit was filed by Brandon Burns, president of the Freedom of Choice organization that has protested COVID-19-related government mandates, and Wendy Price, listed as a parent in court records.
In an interview Tuesday, Burns alleged the masks are causing psychological damage to children by not allowing them to see others’ expressions, as well as inhibiting them from breathing properly.
“Really, at the end of the day, it’s wrong,” he said. “It’s not about COVID anymore. It’s about control.”
Burns said the goal of the lawsuit is to halt the mandate and allow people the freedom to make their own choices.
For the Clark County lawsuit, plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys Sigal Chattah and Joey Gilbert.
“The perpetual mask mandates in Clark County on students, with no end in the near future, continues to violate our students’ constitutional rights,” Chattah said via email.
The governor’s office said Monday it has no comment on the litigation. The school district and Ford’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
No hearings scheduled
Online court documents don’t show any hearings scheduled in either case.
In July, the school district announced it would require students and staff to wear masks indoors at facilities and on school buses unless they have a medical or developmental condition that prohibits them from doing so.
The state issued an emergency directive the following month saying face masks are required for kindergarten through 12th grade students in school districts, public charter schools and private schools in counties with a population of 100,000 or more — which includes Clark County — while inside school buildings.
Statewide, all students must wear a mask while riding school buses and all school employees must wear a mask. In addition, all Nevada counties but Esmeralda are under a state mandate requiring the wearing of masks in crowded indoor public settings.
It’s not the first time parents have filed lawsuits over the mask mandates. In August, parents of two students filed a class action lawsuit against the Clark County School District and Sisolak alleging that requiring children to wear masks at school violates their constitutional rights. That complaint, also filed by Chattah and Gilbert, is pending.
Plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court case are seeking $200 million in restitution. They’re also asking for the court to declare the mask policy void and in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
In addition, the complaints states that defendants be “held accountable for violating the public’s trust to the fullest extent of the law,” which it says should mean being charged with no less than a category C felony.
The lawsuit alleges the school board and Jara “unlawfully forced and compelled” children to wear masks.
Plaintiffs also say their children should have the ability to pursue an education “without being subjected to health risks that are not offset by any scientifically provable benefits,” according to the complaint.
‘Infliction of emotional distress’
The District Court lawsuit filed last week in Clark County said the children being represented attend Mojave High School in North Las Vegas, Rogich Middle School in Las Vegas and an unspecified Doral Academy campus. Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction and unspecified damages.
The complaint states that Doral Academy is part of the Clark County School District, but it’s a public charter school sponsored by the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority.
The lawsuit questions the constitutionality and duration of state emergency directives related to student face masks, saying they infringe on plaintiff’s civil rights by “ordering draconian measures and engaging in the intentional infliction of emotional distress of school children and their parents,” according to the complaint.
By forcing the use of masks, defendants engaged in “extreme and outrageous conduct beyond the bounds tolerated in a decent society,” the lawsuit alleges.
Complaints over school mask mandates are making their way through court systems nationwide.
Courts in some states — including Arizona, South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa — have at least temporarily rejected governors’ attempts to ban local mask mandates.
But in Texas, the state Supreme Court sided with Gov. Greg Abbot’s ban on such local mandates, reversing a lower court ruling that found the governor was exceeding his authority by prohibiting local action.