A group of 17 parents are suing the Merrimack Valley School District on behalf of their children over its policy of requiring students to wear face masks to school.
The group, represented by lawyer Robert Fojo, claims that the mask mandate violates the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children and that the district lacks the power to develop mask policies, since this power has not been expressly granted by the state legislature. The plaintiffs filed their complaint on September 3, and the district received legal documents on Tuesday.
“Our concern is that the school board is overriding the rights of parents and whether they decide whether to bring their child with a mask or not with a mask, it should be up to the parent for sure,” said Jen Lacasse of Boscawen, l ‘one of the plaintiffs in the case and the parent of two students at Merrimack Valley High School.
Lacasse, who is a mental health counselor, said she was passionate about the issue as she has seen an increase in mental health issues among her school-aged clients and believes masks make the problem worse.
“I work with kids every day and they’re really struggling because of the last year,” Lacasse said. “The kids feel like it’s like this threatening atmosphere they go to school in. I don’t think people understand the mental health ramifications down the road.”
Parents also argue that mandatory masks constitute “unlawful coercion” under state law that restricts the use of child restraint practices in schools, including physical restraint or confinement that ” involves covering the face or body with anything, including soft objects such as pillows. , blankets or washcloths.
“Schools cannot confine children; they don’t have the power to do it, ”said Eric Corliss of Loudon, another plaintiff and parent of four children who attend Loudon High School, College and Elementary School. “They can’t put masks on children. We believe the school is violating their authority by doing this.
The plaintiffs also filed a motion to immediately suspend the mask’s warrant, but this was dismissed by Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman on September 3.
“The school district has the right and the responsibility to ensure the safety of its students and staff,” Shulman wrote. “Masking protects other students and faculty, as well as the wearer. Masks are not medicine, and requiring this simple expedient does not interfere with parental rights. Period.”
Merrimack Valley School District officials declined to comment for this article.
Lacasse said she and the other parents started discussing their concerns on August 25 at a rally she hosted at Rolfe Park and that they managed to generate more than 400 signatures on an online petition asking the school district to drop the mask policy. Lacasse said that when she and the other parents did not receive a response from the district regarding their petition, some of them decided to take legal action. They found lawyer Fojo because of his involvement in similar cases.
The lawsuit against the Merrimack Valley School District’s mask policy is one of many underway in New Hampshire. Parents from Epping, Londonderry and Timberlane school districts are also suing the districts over mask policies and are also represented by Fojo. Similar challenges to the mask have been dropped in Exeter, Stratham, Newfields, Brentwood, Kensington and East Kingston. Two other similar lawsuits were dismissed.
The plaintiffs in the case against Merrimack Valley High School are Eric and Amy Corliss of Loudon, Jen and Gerry Lacasse of Boscawen, Jonathan and Sammantha Rose of Loudon, Jamie Turgeon of Penacook, Alicha and Michael Kingsbury of Loudon, TereseGrinell of Loudon, Michael and Christine Longver of Loudon, Dave and Erin Fortier of Loudon, Joseph and Jennifer Jackson of Loudon and Joel Eugnides of Salisbury.
“I know my children. Every parent knows their kids, we know what’s best for our kids, ”said Eric Corliss. “If I choose to have my child masked at school, I want to be able to make that decision. I don’t think it’s the power of the school district to make that decision. I believe their only purpose is to provide an education for our children and I think they are overstepping their authority to make this happen. “