Judge rejects petition to block Cobb schools mask mandate

10/5/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia - Clarkdale Elementary School kindergarten paraprofessional Destani Rutherford leads a group of students to the buses after school is dismissed in Austell, Monday, October 5, 2020. Cobb County schools, the stateÕs second largest district with about 112,000 students, will begin the first phase of its reopening plan on Monday, Oct. 5. The district will reopen classes to students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and kindergarten through 12th grade special education students. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
10/5/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia - Clarkdale Elementary School kindergarten paraprofessional Destani Rutherford leads a group of students to the buses after school is dismissed in Austell, Monday, October 5, 2020. Cobb County schools, the stateÕs second largest district with about 112,000 students, will begin the first phase of its reopening plan on Monday, Oct. 5. The district will reopen classes to students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and kindergarten through 12th grade special education students. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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

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

A federal judge dismissed a request from several parents to stop the Cobb County School District from enforcing its mask mandate.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. rejected the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the district’s mask requirement for students and its contract tracing policy for confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The ruling was made Wednesday following a virtual court hearing, court records show.

Attorney Robert Madayag, who represents the parents, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that they are disappointed in Judge Thrash’s ruling. The judge sided with the district, despite Cobb schools not showing any studies that wearing a mask for eight hours is safe, Madayag said.

“We are going to continue fighting this case,” he said. “We are very disappointed that the school district would rather listen blindly to the CDC instead of taking the time to make sure that what they are doing to the students is safe.”

ExploreCobb parents ask courts to overturn school mask mandate

Attorneys representing Superintendent Chris Ragsdale and Cobb school board members did not immediately return calls and emails to the AJC requesting comment on Thursday. A Cobb schools spokeswoman said while the district can’t comment on the lawsuit, it is “confident the facts and law will speak for themselves.”

The complaint was originally filed April 9 in Cobb County Superior Court, but the case was transferred to federal court because the parents sought relief under federal laws.

The parents argued in their complaint that mask mandates don’t stop the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 and the district’s contact tracing policy violates student privacy under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Cobb schools in October began a phased reopening of classrooms for in-person learning. The district requires that all students and staff wear masks when social distancing is not possible during school or related activities.

Cobb schools is the second-largest district in the state with 107,000 students. At least two other metro Atlanta districts -- Fulton County and Marietta City Schools -- have announced they will relax some coronavirus safety precautions.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend universal masking. Its most recent guidance to schools state masks should be work at all times by everyone in school buildings, with exceptions set aside for eating and drinking.

Return to AJC.com for updates.

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