Judge Marks Denies Halt to School Masks, Parents to Consider Appeal to Supreme Court
District Court Judge Jason Marks denied parents request for injunctive relief against Missoula County Public School mask mandates on Friday, issuing a 16-page order that said the parents did not provide sufficient evidence that rights to privacy or dignity were being violated. Judge Marks also said that injunctive relief was denied because parents did not file a complaint with the court during the previous school year.
Attorney for the parents Quentin Rhoades shared, “We are obviously very disappointed in the ruling and disagree strongly with the Court’s analysis. I will be conferring with my clients this weekend on a decision whether to appeal. The issues in this case are very important for all of us and our clients are mulling their options carefully. They believe constitutional rights are more important at during a crisis than at any other time.”
Judge Marks criticized the parent’s assertion that face masks were “medical devices” and that the parent’s central argument, the right to privacy when it comes to making medical decisions, does not apply. “Although Plaintiffs equate a face covering rule to a medical treatment or an individual health care decision and characterize a face covering as a “medical device”, their characterizations are misguided,” said Marks.
“This distinction falls in line with common sense, as the Schools have argued, in that masks no more treat COVID-19 than helmets treat head injuries,” Judge Marks said in his order.
The parents other argument, that their children’s right to dignity is being violated, was also criticized by Marks,
While the Court understands the frustrations of the parents in this case and the social impediments children in school may experience due to masking, masking in school during a pandemic is a far cry from an abuse of human dignity as recognized in Montana jurisprudence.Order Regarding Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Judge Jason Marks. October 1, 2021.
The judge also noted that the injunction would not be granted since parents did not file a complaint with the courts during the 2020-2021 school year, which, according to Judge Marks, made masking the uncontested status-quo. A injunction is granted to restore the status quo, which is forced masking, Missoula Schools contended during oral arguments Wednesday.
A preliminary trial date was set for April 2022 after oral arguments on Wednesday. Rhoades said Wednesday that parents and Stand Up Montana, a non-profit named as a plaintiff in the suit, could file an appeal with the State Supreme Court if the injunctive relief was not granted.
The order comes the same day a new law aimed at protecting parent’s fundamental rights goes into effect. SB-400, sponsored by Theresa Manzella (SD-44), restricts a governmental entity’s ability to interfere with fundamental parental rights and establishes a cause of action for interference with parental rights. The new law could provide plaintiffs with a legal angle to resolve their dispute with Missoula County Public Schools.
Read the order:39-Order-Re-Motion-for-Preliminary-Injunction