INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - The School District of Indian River County policy requiring students to wear masks in school is about to get tested in court.

The title of the case in the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit for Indian River County is Jennifer Pippin, Alexandra Nobregas, Nicole Campanelli, Sandy Campiglia et al, Plaintiffs, v. Indian River County School Board, Defendant.

Judge Janet Croom will call the case for hearing and argument on Jan. 29 at 1 p.m. Judge Croom will hear arguments regarding both the Plaintiff’s Motion for Injunctive Relief and the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.

The hearing will be conducted by Zoom and Skype.

The attorney for the plaintiffs is Patrick Leduc of Tampa. The school board is represented by attorneys Jason Margolin, Mallorie Bonti, and Melissa Torres, of the Tampa firm Akerman LLP.

In their 63-page complaint, plaintiffs argue for either a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction stopping the school board from compelling students to wear face masks as a requirement to attend school.

In their complaint, plaintiffs argue “The intent of this lawsuit is to empower parents, whose love for their children cannot be questioned, and have the sole right to make decisions in their children’s best interest. As of this writing, there is not one single instance, anywhere in the entire world, where one single school teacher has contracted COVID 19 from a student. ... This lawsuit seeks to protect children from an irrational policy that proposes to protect them, but has the effect of actually harming children.”

“The IRCSB has placed parents in a position to subject their children to real harm totally unrelated to COVID 19, both physical and psychological, if they choose to send them to school. The policy of mandatory face mask wear for students of tender years leaves parents with little choice: subject their children to a policy that is not in the best interest of the child, or to be compelled to home school their children in a manner that is both separate and unequal, and also results in additional harms unrelated to COVID 19. Most parents cannot make such a choice, given their own work requirements.”

“When a policy is instituted that requires minors to wear masks, as is being done here, it meets the definition of a medical device. Such wearing of a device interferes with the parent’s right to choose the medical decisions and treatments for their minor children. ... The IRCSB does not have the legal authority to order a medical device be worn, over a long period of time, five days a week, for the privilege of enjoying a free public education.”

The school board argues in its 92-page motion to dismiss that it “had the inherent authority to implement its Approved Reopening Plan, requiring face masks, and to regulate on behalf of the health, safety, and welfare of students.”

“There is no constitutional right preventing face masks in school,” the school board says. “There is no constitutional right entitling individuals to expose students, teachers, and other citizens alike to a contagious and potentially deadly virus during a global pandemic.”

In her affidavit, plaintiff Jennifer Pippin asserts that her “daughter is constantly harassed when she is socially distanced to put her mask on. Affiant’s daughter grades have suffered as direct result to the actions of school official enforcing face mask rules that have no relationship to the policy. ... The minor child has been compelled to miss tumbling classes (gymnastics); miss 4-H Club; miss her first homecoming game and homecoming week as a freshman and football games and school activities.”

Plaintiff Sandy Campiglia says in his affidavit “Affiant believes that compelled facemask wear is not in his child’s best emotional, physical and psychological interest. Affiant believes he is best situated to determine what is in the best interest of his child and not the school board. Additionally, the present policy interferes with his parental rights and decision-making ability.”

Hometown News will continue to monitor this case and report further developments as they arise.

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