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Federal Judge Sides With Douglas County Schools On Face Mask Requirements Lawsuit

(CBS4) - A federal judge granted a request by the Douglas County School District for a temporary restraining order to block new relaxed mask rules imposed by the county's Board of Health. The judge said early Tuesday afternoon that the district proved the relaxed rules would create irreparable harm.

The debate over face mask requirements in Douglas County Schools moved to U.S District Court this month. Attorneys for the school district, on behalf of students with disabilities, asked the judge to temporarily halt the relaxation of rules put in place earlier this month by the newly created board.

They feared the declining percentage of students wearing masks in school would mean more danger from COVID for them perhaps having to stay away from the classrooms.

(credit: CBS)

At first this school year the district only recommended masks, then the Tri-County Health Department mandated masks for the children. The county then broke away from Tri-County and created its own board of health. Its new rules left mask exemptions up to parents for their children and restricts imposition of quarantines. Parents simply had to write a letter saying the masks are having a negative impact on their child in order to opt out.

Douglas County Schools Superintendent Corey Wise spoke outside the courthouse after the ruling.

"This means we will require all individuals including students, staff and visitors to wear a mask inside Douglas County School District buildings with the exception of those who have a documented mask exemption," he said. "As a school district we strive to do everything to protect  the health, safety and learning of every single child."

That will now have to come from a licensed doctor. Quarantines will now be easier to impose.  Parents wanting to decide for their own children regarding masks conducted raucous protests.

"I think the clarity myself and a lot of superintendents are looking for is 'You are the medical experts, you tell us what you mandate and what is required,'" Wise told CBS4 back in August.

COVID-19 School, Face Mask School
(credit: Getty Images)

Lawyers for the Douglas County Board of Health argued in court that the chances of children getting the virus are low with only two students currently hospitalized and they claimed masks interfere with education.

The restraining order blocks the new rules for at least 14 days.

The Douglas County Board of Health shared the following statement with CBS4 on Tuesday afternoon:

"We respectfully disagree with the court's decision to issue a temporary restraining order. We remain confident that when we have more time to make a full case we will be able to demonstrate that the Douglas County Board of Health struck the proper balance of public health protection and parental involvement in health care decisions for their children. Our Order allowed the school district to continue its mask mandate even though the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lifted its statewide mask mandate for students in July. We would continue to encourage the Douglas County Board of Education to make partners of all parents in decisions that fundamentally impact their children."

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