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Mask mandate for students as young as 5 called ‘shocking,’ sparks lawsuit

The federal lawsuit filed by a small, non-public school in Lansing says health department orders 'add up to 7 additional hours of continuous masking for students.'
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

LANSING, Mich. — School kids as young as kindergartners should not have to sit in a classroom for up to seven hours a day wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19, a federal lawsuit claims.

And despite successful efforts by Resurrection School to deter the spread of COVID-19 in their small, non-public school in Lansing, health officials “require elementary school children to wear masks,’’ the federal lawsuit claims.

“The breadth and scope of the challenged orders are shocking,’’ lawyers say in the 31-page lawsuit.

“The excessive or unreasonable mandated wearing of a face mask has become a symbol of oppression and an attempt by the government to control the citizenry,’’ lawyers for the catholic school wrote. 

The lawsuit was recently filed in Grand Rapids federal court by Resurrection School and the parents of four students. 

It challenges orders by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Ingham County Health Department as well as enforcement by the state Attorney General and the Ingham County prosecutor.

The mandates “add up to seven additional hours of continuous masking for student as young as five years old,’’ the lawsuit claims. 

Resurrection School this week asked a federal judge to step in and allow the school to operate without having to enforce health department mask rules for kids in grades K-5 “when the children are seated at their desks in their elementary school classrooms, socially distanced.’’

The lawsuit also takes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to task for issuing 192 executive orders, citing the spread of COVID-19 “as justification for this extraordinary exercise of authority.’’

Although the majority of those orders have since been knocked down by the Michigan Supreme Court, Whitmer, the state health department and the Ingham County Health Department “continue to mandate more unilateral and draconian orders that reorder social life,’’ the lawsuit claims.

A representative for Ingham County declined comment, citing pending litigation.  Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office did not respond to a message seeking comment.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said the agency “is confident that the epidemic order is lawful.’’

“MDHHS Director Robert Gordon issued the order under a different law than the law invalidated by the Michigan Supreme Court,’’ spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin wrote in an email. “The law under which Director Gordon acted was enacted by the Michigan Legislature specifically to deal with epidemics.’’

Attorneys from the Great Lakes Justice Center and the American Freedom Law Center represent the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They note that students and schools across Michigan have engaged in in-person classroom education since August of 2020, “with extensive health and safety protocols in place.’’

Resurrection School, the suit claims, has operated under an approved plan, successfully deterring the spread of COVID-19. 

The health department regulations, the suit says, requires kids to wear masks “regardless of whether the children are safely distanced from one another and regardless of how the mandate affects the children’s ability to learn and fully engage in religious education.’’

The health department orders violate “fundamental liberties protected by the United States and Michigan Constitutions and they violate Michigan law,’’ according to the lawsuit.

Resurrection School adheres to strict protocols, including social distancing, frequent sanitation and continuous monitoring of the students and family’s health.

“To date, Resurrection School has avoided any outbreaks within its school due to following this strict protocol,’’ the lawsuit states.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney.

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