The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, December 14, 2021 6:40 pm

NACS parents want COVID suit to continue

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The six parents suing Northwest Allen County Schools over coronavirus protocols are asking an Allen Superior Court judge to deny the district's and county health officials' separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit.

Judge David Avery is expected to consider the matter at a 1:30 p.m. Dec. 22 hearing at the Allen County Courthouse.

In responses filed Friday, the parents contended they are entitled to further develop their "viable" claims against NACS through discovery, and the discovery process will reveal the legal and scientific basis for the COVID-19 policies, among other answers.

The parents, who collectively represent 12 children, said policies – including those about masking and quarantines – violate their statutory and constitutional rights.

"They also assert that the policies are unsupported by data and reliable scientific principles," court documents said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb required mask-wearing in all K-12 schools last academic year, but masking decisions have been up to local school boards since Holcomb's order expired June 30.

The NACS board reinstated the mask mandate Sept. 1. After vaccines became available to children as young as 5, the school board decided Nov. 8 not to require the face coverings after winter break unless required by local, state or federal order.

In court documents filed last month, the county defendants – the Allen County Department of Health and Dr. Matthew Sutter, health commissioner – said the parents complained about reasonable policies NACS enacted to combat the coronavirus, which by then had infected more than 1 million Hoosiers and killed more than 16,300.

In their 16-page response to the county, the parents asked the court to prohibit Sutter "from enforcing unlawful quarantine policies," noting "quarantine policies have excluded thousands of students from school without good cause."

Their 27-page response to the school defendants described masks as medical treatment or intervention; questioned NACS' denial of religious exemptions to the mask mandate; and accused the district of violating the vaccine passport ban because quarantine rules are different for vaccinated students.

"The school defendants argue that 'voluntary disclosure of student vaccination status to the school' is distinct from a vaccine passport," court documents said. "But the message of the NACS policy is clear: to be a full member of the school community one should be vaccinated."

The school defendants are NACS; Superintendent Chris Himsel; Tanya Pickett, an assistant principal; the board of trustees; and board members Elizabeth Hathaway, Kristi Schlatter and Ronald Felger.

NACS said in September it is confident the court will rule in its favor.

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