COVID-19

Missoula Judge Denies Halting Mask Requirements in Schools

Several parents sued several Missoula schools in August over their mask requirements

By IRIS SAMUELS, Associated Press/Report for America

HELENA — A district judge in Missoula has denied a request by several parents to halt mask mandates in Missoula schools while a legal challenge of the mandates is underway.

The parents sued several Missoula schools in August over their mask requirements, arguing they violated the state’s constitution, which guarantees individuals the right to make their own medical decisions.

Missoula District Judge Jason Marks denied the request for a preliminary injunction on Friday, saying in his decision that such an injunction could lead to increased spread of COVID-19 and quarantining of children and school staff.

The decision came the same day as dozens of Montana residents gathered at the state Capitol on Friday to decry mask mandates for school children. The rally was led by Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, a Republican.

Lawyer Quentin Rhoades, who represents several parents suing Missoula public schools over their mask requirements, said in August that there isn’t sufficient scientific evidence that children wearing masks prevents the spread of the coronavirus for the government to override parents’ rights to make decision over their children’s’ health.

But several studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found school districts without a universal masking policy in place were more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks.

Missoula is one of several districts in Montana where masks are required for students and staff, following recommendations issued by the CDC. Several Montana schools without universal mask requirements have been forced to temporarily close due to widespread infections several weeks into the school year.

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