An attorney representing the parents of Allen ISD today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit regarding their school district’s lack of a mask warrant, adding the parents as plaintiffs in a lawsuit originally filed at late last month against Frisco ISD, Lago Vista ISD, Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD.
The amended complaint – filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas instead of the Eastern District, as it was at the start, adds three defendants: the Texas Education Agency, McKinney ISD and Tomball ISD, in the suburb of Houston.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction and a permanent injunction which, if successful, would require the Texas Education Agency to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for all districts named in the case – including universal masking.
The change of venue means that instead of receiving a ruling in the Eastern District from U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan, who was originally assigned to the case, the trial will be heard by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman.
Jordan was nominated by a Republican, former President Donald Trump, and Pitman was nominated by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Allen ISD said in a prepared statement Thursday that plaintiffs’ attorney Martin Cirkiel was doing “forum shopping” – or had chosen to file a lawsuit in a court that would treat the lawsuit claims more favorably.
“Once again, this process will cost Allen ISD considerable working hours and legal fees to defend itself in court,” the statement said.
The district also said it will continue to follow its COVID-19 safety procedures “which have resulted in low rates of active cases,” of 0.16% of the student body.
Cirkiel, McKinney ISD and the Texas Education Agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Allen ISD’s parents dropped their original civil rights lawsuit two weeks ago, after Jordan denied their request for a temporary restraining order against the school district. He had not yet ruled on a permanent injunction.
Officials said the district has already spent tens of thousands of dollars defending the lawsuit.
âHearing AISD lawyers say they have no legal obligation to protect our children from other children really shocked and hurt me,â said Therissa Grefsrud, a district parent named in the lawsuit, after the first hearing in early October.
“And then seeing them basically lighting a cigar and claiming victoryâ¦ there are no winners in this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Allen ISD said in a statement prepared after the denial that it was an “important victory” and that his strong case in court likely influenced the parents to drop the case, but their lawyer denied this.
âThis decision was not made because we believe AISD provides reasonable COVID guarantees based on medical advice. This decision was not made because we believe AISD has a strong legal record, âtheir lawyer’s office said in a statement prepared at the time.
Federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 1,000 parents in early September alleged that the Allen School District’s refusal to require masks violated students’ constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness .
Other COVID-19 lawsuits filed in Texas and other states allege discrimination against students with disabilities. But the complaints against the North Texas districts allege a violation of the constitutional rights of all students, according to a statement from the plaintiffs’ law firm.
Allen ISD and many other parents in the district are challenging the lawsuit’s claim that not requiring masks – which public health experts say can slow the spread of the virus – is a violation of constitutional rights.
“The district, however, strongly disagrees that the constitutional rights of students have been violated by leaving masks as an option for students and staff,” spokesman David Hicks said in a statement prepared at The morning news from Dallas last month.
Allen’s parents have already said The news that they felt that legal action was the last resort they had to keep their children safe. In the weeks leading up to the complaint being filed, parents protested at school board meetings, sent Allen ISD a grievance letter with hundreds of signatures, and begged the district to change its policy.
Parents said the dispute was not about money, but health and safety, especially for children too young to be vaccinated.
âI want my children to be in a safe learning environment,â said Grefsrud, a registered nurse who specializes in infection prevention and epidemiology, said last month. “And I think all of our children in this community deserve a safe learning environment.”
Cases of COVID-19 in children
According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, new coronavirus patient admissions are down in North Texas’s four most populous counties, and city data shows active Allen virus cases have declined for six consecutive weeks.
But a disproportionate number of severe cases occur in children.
During the last wave of COVID-19 over the summer, pediatric hospitalizations related to COVID-19 were seen at unprecedented levels, peaking in early September. Providers said they saw an increase in the number of children testing positive for the disease in August and September compared to previous months.
As of October 21, Allen ISD had at least 40 active cases of COVID-19, according to the district dashboard. Half of the cases involve elementary school students, according to the data.