Parent Sues School District for Failure to Follow COVID-19 Guidelines after Child Is Infected
Shannon Jensen filed a lawsuit against Waukesha School District for failing to comply with the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s guidelines on COVID-19. The lawsuit alleges that the school board removed the student mask mandate, among other Covid-19 measures. In September 2021, a classmate of Jensen’s son came to school with symptoms but didn’t wear a mask. Jensen’s son was next to the sick student and became infected despite wearing a mask himself. Jensen’s other children later tested positive for COVID-19 as well. Jensen claimed the district would not contact trace or quarantine the class at any point.
Can a Court Order an Organization to Comply with CDC COVID-19 Restrictions?
Jensen seeks an injunction ordering the district to comply with CDC guidelines, including the enforcement of a mask mandate. Injunctions are court orders whereby a court can order someone to do something or to reframe from doing something. There are different types of injunctions, depending on the type of case, when the injunction is requested, and the length of the injunction.
Jensen would probably seek a permanent injunction that would last for the duration of the pandemic. The exact requirements to obtain a permanent injunction may differ by jurisdiction, though most jurisdictions would require the following:
- the plaintiff has suffered irreparable injury;
- the available solutions are inadequate to compensate that injury;
- the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant weighs towards the plaintiff;
- the public interest would not be disserved by an injunction.
Jensen’s children have clearly suffered significant harm though it may be disputable whether the harm is irreparable. If the children survive without any long-term effects, then the injury is reparable. However, if the children pass away or suffer from long-term Covid effects such as damaged longs or emotional trauma from being forced onto a ventilator, then the harm could be irreparable.
There are no other solutions or remedies that could make Jensen and her children whole. However, vaccines are expected to become available for children before the end of 2021, so a vaccine mandate would arguably a viable alternative to a mask mandate, though a mask mandate would be less intrusive than a vaccine mandate. However, doing nothing is not a solution which children are clearly falling ill from exposure to other sick children. Moreover, Jensen is not asking for monetary compensation.
The balance of hardships clearly weighs in favor of the parents and children. A school could enforce a mask mandate as easily as it enforces a dress code for students. Indeed, it would probably be easier – face masks are open and obvious while measuring the length of a girl’s skirt takes considerable more effort. Given that the school has a duty to keep its students safe, there is little rationale for why it shouldn’t adapt CDC recommendations.
The public interest would clearly be served here. Ordering the school district to enforce a mask mandate would protect other children. Although ordering a mask mandate may invite some protests, keeping children safe from an infectious disease that has already killed hundreds of thousands of Americans must be a priority.
It may be arguable that the school district, not the court, should have the final word on how a school should be run. However, an unchecked pandemic in a school is an emergency that warrants judicial intervention especially if a school is potentially negligent in its responsibility to keep its students safe.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you have sustained a personal injury because of someone else, you should contact a personal injury attorney. A skilled personal injury lawyer can review the facts of your case, go over your rights and options, and represent you at hearings and in court.