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Montoursville parents file in federal court over mask mandate

Fourteen parents of students at Montoursville Area School District have filed a civil rights lawsuit this week in federal court to overturn a state-ordered mask mandate.

The parents are challenging the school in U.S. Middle District Court over a requirement that all students, staff and visitors wear masks on buses and in school buildings.

They argue in the suit that district Superintendent Christina Bason did not have the authority to issue a Sept. 2 mandate on facial masks without the approval of the school board.

Bason, board President David Shimmel and the board are listed as defendants. The board is a defendant but not individual members.

The main issue cited by the parents and attorney Gregory A. Stapp was that the mandate was initiated

Parents file in court over masks

without notice to the public, or prior notice to members of the board.

Instead, the parents contend, Bason sent an email on Sept. 2, requiring the students to wear masks indoors and on the school buses.

Bason issued the mandate after Alison Beam, acting state Department of Health secretary, on Sept. 2 signed an order requiring masked to be worn inside kindergarten through 12th grade school buildings, early learning programs and child care providers by Sept. 7.

Without the scheduling of any meeting or emergency meeting of the board, the superintendent sent the email after consultation with Shimmel, the suit states.

Bason, with the approval of Shimmel, “stripped” the board of their authority to make changes to the district’s Health and Safety Plan, the parents contend.

The parents assert that Bason’s decision violates Constitutional substantive and procedural due process and that any person who interferes with the breathing of a child in this state is guilty of “child abuse.”

The parents claim masks could restrict a child’s breathing in addition to causing other harmful effects, such as lack of oxygen, shortness of breath, increased lactate concentration and acidosis.

The parents have asked for the court to issue a temporary restraining order on an emergency basis and eventually a preliminary injunction to stop the district leadership from enforcing masking policy established by Bason.

They also want to see restoration of what existed prior to the board’s vote, or restore the district’s universal mask option policy.

They also want to see the school board given authority to enforce the district’s Health and Safety Plan.

These counts in the lawsuit include violation of procedural due process; violation of substantive due process and right to free association.

Judge Matthew W. Brann is presiding and issued a summons notifying the school district this week that it was being sued.

A voicemail message was left for Bason at her office.

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