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Parents ask judge to strike down Utah's school mask restrictions citing COVID variants

Schools Masks
Posted at 1:36 PM, Dec 22, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of parents suing the state over its restrictions on school mask mandates points to the omicron COVID-19 variant as one of the reasons to keep their lawsuit going.

"The court cannot determine whether Plaintiff’s claim is moot without considering, among other critical facts, the effectiveness of the vaccine against the Omicron variant and the safety of the vaccine for children with underlying comorbidities and disabilities," attorneys for the parents and the Concerned Coalition of Utah wrote in response to a motion to dismiss filed by the Utah Attorney General's Office and Salt Lake County.

The parents and the coalition sued the state, arguing that the Utah State Legislature's law restricting school districts from imposing mask mandates interferes with their children's right to a fair education under the state constitution. The state and the county have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

"The state legislature exercised power it did not have when it prohibited schools from imposing mask mandates in response to COVID-19," attorneys Greg Skordas and Gabriela Mena wrote.

But they argue that they're not asking the judge to create a mask mandate, but block the law so school districts could elect to do so on their own.

"Governor Cox frames the issues in this case in hyperbolic terms. Plaintiffs are not asking the Court to create a disease prevention policy. Contrary to Governor Cox’s claim that the court is wading into a political question that the political branches of government should resolve, Plaintiffs ask this court to do what courts have historically done since Marbury v. Madison; determine the constitutionality of a statute," Skordas and Mena wrote.

The legislature passed — and Gov. Cox signed into law — a bill that blocks local school districts from imposing mask requirements. Instead, a local health department can seek an order, but a county commission or council can override it. That happened in Salt Lake County. In contrast, Grand County upheld a mask requirement sought by its local health department. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall put one in place citing emergency powers laws.

Third District Court Judge Vernice Trease may hold a hearing on a request for an injunction blocking the K-12 mask laws before issuing her ruling.

Read the filing here: