Judge denies injunction in case challenging school mask mandate

Boston Statehouse

FILE – A student wears a face mask while doing work at his desk at the Post Road Elementary School, in White Plains, N.Y., in this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, file photo. U.S. health officials say the highly contagious delta version of the coronavirus is behind changes to mask guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced that fully vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors if they live in areas where the virus is surging. CDC officials said new information about the spread of the delta variant forced them to reverse course. The agency also said teachers and students everywhere should go back to wearing masks in schools. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, FIle)

BOSTON (State House News Service) – A Superior Court judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit challenging the state’s school mask mandate, finding that the policy has “a substantial relation to the protection of public health.”

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in August granted Commissioner Jeffrey Riley authority to impose a mask mandate, and Riley has twice extended his requirement for universal masking of staff and students in K-12 schools, now in place through at least Jan. 15, 2022. Riley’s policy allows schools to drop the requirement for vaccinated individuals if they demonstrate a vaccination rate of at least 80 percent.

According to Judge David Hodge’s order, filed Tuesday, the plaintiffs in The Family Freedom Endeavor Inc. vs. Jeffrey Riley and consolidated cases are challenging the authority of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 18 districts, the city of Cambridge and the town of Dover to issue mask mandates, arguing in part that the mandates violate parents’ constitutional rights to make decisions on their children’s health.

Hodge wrote that public school officials at the state and local level “have ample and well-established power to impose measures to protect the general welfare and best interests of their students.” He said the plaintiffs “have not met their burden of demonstrating that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims or that they have or will suffer irreparable harm if they are not granted the injunctive relief they seek.”

On its website, The Family Freedom Endeavor describes Riley’s mask mandate as “morally wrong.” The lawsuit alleges the defendants lacked authority to issue the mandate, and that its purpose is “not to eliminate a clear and present risk to the safety of students and staff” but to “encourage and incentivize students and staff to get vaccinated.”

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