PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Wood County Schools is facing a lawsuit filed by parents who say the district’s mask mandate is affecting their children’s health.
The suit, filed Tuesday by attorney John Bryan on behalf of his clients, John Davis and Felsie Pierce, parents of three Parkersburg High School students, calls for an end to the mandate.
Bryan said the parents claim the requirement is illegal and unconstitutional, arguing that local boards of education have no authority to enact mask mandates apart from boards of health.
“Wood County did not follow a legal procedure. They have to follow the rules, which would require an actual rule or order coming from the local health board and that’s apparently not what happened,” Bryan said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Parents allege that “forced, prolonged masking has caused actual harm” to their children who have suffered medical conditions because of covering their faces.
“We allege that this has, in fact, harmed my client’s kids because we have things like enhanced allergies, induced acne, etc, and they’re allowing no exemption,” Bryan said.
The Wood County Board of Education approved a mask mandate on Aug. 31 due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and quarantines. Masks must be worn inside school buildings and on school buses.
Bryan said the lawsuit also points to local school boards who never had the right to issue mandates like this in previous years.
“We have to back up to 2019 or 2018: Did these local boards of education have the ability to cover the mouths and noses of children in their schools? I don’t know of any argument that they could do so,” he said.
Many West Virginia’s county school systems have issued mask mandates. Governor Jim Justice has repeatedly said he has no plans to enforce a statewide mandate on masks in schools and that those decisions should be left up to local officials.
Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook told MetroNews the district had no comment on the matter because it involves pending litigation.