Allen ISD parents file civil rights lawsuit over district’s lack of mask mandate

A group of families in a North Texas school district is suing because it refuses to implement a mask mandate.

The lawsuit alleges that the district’s optional mask policy violates students’ constitutional rights, and it calls on Allen ISD to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines on masks.

The goal of the lawsuit, filed Wednesday, is a temporary restraining order from federal court and then a permanent injunction seeking to require masks at the district’s campuses.

"We’re begging people to help us, because we’re struggling," said parent Therissa Grefsrud. "It’s very clear on the risk it’s posing to our children. We’re here because we care about all of these children that do not have these levels or measures of protection."

Attorneys for these parents argue the district is not embracing the right to life and health. 

"The choice of family to make their own decisions about whether their kids wear masks or not. And we understand and we respect that constitutional protection, our constitutional position, we believe in stronger," said Martin Cirkiel, plaintiff’s attorney.

In a statement, the district said: "Allen ISD continues to work proactively and professionally with parents who have questions or concerns about COVID-related issues. The vast majority of these concerns have been resolved without the need for litigation."

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SMU Adjunct Professor of Law Eric Cedillo is not involved in this case, but says it stands out as a federal lawsuit.

"It's one that is different from the other lawsuits, mainly because it's in federal court and they're asking for relief from those federal courts based on federal constitutional requirements of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment," he said.

The Texas Supreme Court has already sided with Gov. Abbott once on the issue, focusing on the question of authority and not the health issue itself.

"I think a question that a federal judge will be asking themselves is whether or not this might be violative of constitutional law. It doesn't necessarily mean that that they have a better track, but it's certainly a novel one, a different one. And a federal judge might see it differently than the way the governor sees it," Cedillo said.

The issue of mandatory masks has been simmering now for some time in the district.

Last month, some parents held a protest outside the main administration building, calling for a mask requirement on campuses.

And at the last school board meeting, there was a sizeable crowd with several people speaking out.

"I would simply ask that the council invoke the same distance learning, mask mandate and protocols you had last year. This would cost nothing," said Jeremy Jones, an Allen ISD parent.

"With the more transmissible delta variant surge that does not spare children, we are asking you to continue the protections that you started last year, instead of taking them all away," said Judy Cody, another parent.


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