Ridgefield group part of appeal challenging masks in school
A Ridgefield-based group is involved in an appeal challenging the state Department of Education’s requirement that sudents must wear face masks in school this fall.
In the appeal recently filed in civil court in New Britain, Jenna Matos, a Manchester mother of two, Raena Ferguson, a Niantic mother, and the CT Freedom Alliance, said they oppose their children having to “wear a face covering, mask, face shield, or any other attire or apparatus on their bodies.”
The Connecticut Freedom Alliance is a limited-liability corporation registered to a residential address in Ridgefield. In the complaint, the organization claims it represents more than 100 members, most of them Connecticut residents, a “substantial portion” of whom are parents who don’t want their children to have to wear masks in school.
Matos is the mother of two children, aged 5 and 7, who are students at St. James School, a private Pre-K-8 school in Manchester, according to the complaint. Ferguson’s 14-year-old attends East Lyme High School in East Lyme.
A lawyer for parents challenging the state’s requirement said last Sunday that his clients were frustrated by what he called the lack of a formal process behind the directive.
“Under the Connecticut Constitution our clients’ children are entitled to a free public education,” said the attorney, Craig Fishbein.
Fishbein is a Republican member of the state House of Representatives representing the 90th District, which includes parts of Cheshire and Wallingford.
His co-counsel in the case is Doug Dubitsky, R-47, which includes Canterbury and several other eastern Connecticut towns.
The state now has 30 days to produce evidence of the process it went through to determine students should wear masks, including any scientific reports showing masks’ effectiveness or transcripts of meetings that led to the decision, Fishbein said.
The court will have to decide whether the decision followed proper channels, or was made based on “rumor and conjecture,” he said.
“Ultimately there’s no scientific proof that wearing a mask has any benefit,” Fishbein said.
The appeal calls for the court to rescind all mask requirements enacted by the Department of Education and issue an order stating that schools in the state cannot “require the wearing of face coverings, masks, or face shields by students at any time during the school day.”
Peter Yazbak, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said the department and the Attorney General “are reviewing the complaint and will respond in court.”
“Masks keep people safe. Please wear your mask,” he added.
The filing, which names the department of education and Commissioner Miguel Cardona as defendants, claims mask mandates “place an unconstitutional burden and restriction on the Plaintiffs’ fundamental right to an education,” and denies their right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
Masking for students and teachers has drawn mixed reactions from parents since Gov. Ned Lamont began publicly discussing the state’s reopening plan for schools in late June. While some parents have said they agree masks will help prevent the spread of infectious disease — a position widely supported by the scientific community, many have raised concern that kids won’t be able to keep their masks on.
Last Friday’s appeal on the mask mandate comes as dozens of lawsuits throughout Connecticut have challenged various rules and regulations put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.