The group, named Parents Advocating For Safe Schools, filed a lawsuit against Governor Tim Walz and the state that argues schools being open without mask rules endangers students and impacts their constitutional right to “adequate” education during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, said the group is made up of parents from across Minnesota and live in districts without mask mandates.
According to the lawsuit, the group wants Mr Walz to call for a peacetime emergency and bring in an executive order stating masks ought to be worn in all state funded schools. They argue not doing this is an infringement on students’ rights and is discrimination against disabled students.
“We are hopeful that the court will recognise that subjecting students, teachers, staff and visitors to schools to dangerous, hazardous situations where masks aren’t required deprives the students of the ability to have an adequate education as guaranteed by the state constitution,” Mr Tanick told The Star Tribune.
In a statement by the group, Dr Loucresie Rupert, a psychiatrist and parent involved in the legal action said: “We believe that mandatory masking is essential to the safety, health and well-being of our children, as well as staff members at schools, and those visiting school sites.”
In 2020, Mr Walz was able to deploy emergency pandemic powers to initiate safety measures in educational establishments, although now the matter has been devolved to local districts. In some areas in Minnesota, such as the Twin Cities metro area, masks have already been mandated, although this is not the case in other parts. In lieu of mandates, they have issued recommendations to wear a mask.
Minnesota’s departments of health and education have issued advice about the need for mask mandates, based on findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Last month, a report from the CDC found an unvaccinated and masked teacher in California infected with Covid-19 spread the virus to 26 of her pupils. Those sat nearest to the teacher were more likely to test positive from the virus.
In light of their findings, the report said safety measures needed to be implemented in schools for a safe learning experience. These included routine testing, good ventilation and wearing face masks, along with being vaccinated. Everyone in the US over the age of 12 is eligible to be vaccinated against covid.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, mirrored similar sentiments at a press briefing in August.
“Evidence has repeatedly demonstrated that multi-layer prevention strategies, such as vaccination for all children and adults who are eligible, masks for all students, teachers, staff and visitors, ventilation, cohorting and physical distancing and screen testing, working to prevent the spread of covid in schools,” she said on 27 August.
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the Minnesota governor told the Star Tribune in a statement: “As a former high school teacher, Gov Walz will always prioritise the health and safety of Minnesota students, and he expects the Legislature to help him.”
According to his office, they are “reviewing the complaint” and intend to work with all relevant parties to “keep kids safe”.
A date for a hearing has not been set yet, according to MPR News.