Cobb parents ask courts to overturn school mask mandate

Clarkdale Elementary School students sit in pairs, one at each end of the table, as they wait for their school bus to arrive after school in Austell.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Clarkdale Elementary School students sit in pairs, one at each end of the table, as they wait for their school bus to arrive after school in Austell. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

They allege masks are unproven and unnecessary

A testy exchange today over mask mandates between infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci and Republican Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan revealed the ongoing tension in this pandemic between public safety and individual freedom. At a House hearing, Fauci said masks and social distancing save American lives; Jordan countered they undermine American liberties.

That same tension can be seen in Cobb County where six parents are now asking the courts to end the school district’s face masking requirement in effect since October. Attorneys for the parents filed an emergency complaint for injunctive relief in Cobb Superior Court Friday against superintendent Chris Ragsdale and the members of the school board for mandating the wearing of masks and contact tracing.

The complaint seeks to invalidate not only the mask regulation, but the contact tracing policy that sends students home after close contact with a student or staff member who may have COVID-19.

In response, a Cobb district spokeswoman said, “We remain committed to following public health guidance and are looking forward to the day, which is hopefully soon, when public health conditions in Cobb County allow for teachers and students to teach and learn without masks.”

The complaint notes neither Gov. Brian Kemp nor Cobb County has mandated a mask requirement. “Without any science or statistical information the superintendent and school board are dangerously harming Cobb’s school children simply because they can,” said the attorney for the parents, Mitch J. Skandalakis. “The consequences of their outrageous actions will have devastating consequences for years to come on this generation of children. Cobb’s mask mandates are pure political theater.”

Asked to explain the “devastating consequences,” Skandalakis said, “Most kids don’t learn well online, so they are missing out on the benefits of an in-class education. If they’re not learning, they will not have the academic skills and study skills to make it in college. They are also missing out on what should be the best of times for them regarding their social interaction and the development of their social skills.”

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend universal masking, stating in its most recent guidance to schools:

Require consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks with proper filtration by all students, teachers, and staff to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission through respiratory droplets.

Masks should be worn at all times, by all people in school facilities, with certain exceptions for certain people, or for certain settings or activities, such as while eating or drinking.

Masks should be required in all classroom and non-classroom settings, including hallways, school offices, restrooms, gyms, auditoriums, etc.

- CDC/Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention

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