A group of parents fed up with the Allen Independent School District's refusal to require face masks for all students has banded together, lawyered up, and on Wednesday afternoon filed a federal class-action lawsuit against their school district.
The lawsuit demands all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines pertaining to COVID-19 be implemented for all students, including a temporary mask mandate. Teachers and staff are not part of the masking demands.
Attorney Martin Cirkiel filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Sherman Division.
The plaintiff’s names have been sealed and are referred to as John Doe and Jane Doe, parents of Allen ISD students.
Parents in the Collin County community have pleaded for increased safety measures for many weeks, especially since the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet approved for children under the age of 12.
The arrival of the very contagious delta variant and an increased number of hospitalized children has only heightened their concerns.
Parents said they have reached out to the district, they have protested, even started a petition.
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“They’ve left us with no other avenues,” said Christina Cabral. “I do know other parents in other districts that are contemplating the same thing.”
Cabral’s special needs son is especially vulnerable to complications, should he contract COVID-19.
“My youngest has a condition called TAR syndrome,” she said. “Thrombocytopenia-absent radius.”
Nicholas has no arm bones or knee joints, she said.
“The other part of it is a blood disorder which leaves him at a very high risk of complications. He’s immunocompromised, so I’m scared,” said Cabral.
Nicholas is enrolling in an early childhood program for kids with disabilities.
She wants him in school, but safely.
“We have a full load of kids, but we have none of the measures,” she said referring to last year’s safety measures. “They aren’t doing tracing. They aren’t really distancing.”
Therissa Grefsrud, MBA-HCM, BSN, RN, CIC is a board-certified infection prevention nurse and the parent of two Allen students.
“We want common sense CDC recommendations,” said Grefsrud. “I want to see that we are utilizing masks as a way to prevent droplet spread. I want to see social distancing in classes.”
Grefsrud said she’s managed to shield her boys and herself from the virus, until the start of this school year.
“Nothing had been done in the first two and a half, three weeks. My kids ended up with COVID-19 and I ended up becoming one of those rare break-through cases,” she said.
The lawsuit accuses the district of violating students’ constitutional rights to life.
In a statement following the filing of the suit, NBC 5 reached back out to Allen ISD for comment:
‘Due to the ongoing litigation, the school district cannot speak to the specifics regarding its response to the lawsuit at this time. The District, however, strongly disagrees that the students’ constitutional rights have been violated by leaving masks as an option for students and staff.
Allen ISD continues to work proactively and professionally with parents who have questions or concerns about COVID-related issues. The vast majority of these concerns have been resolved without the need for litigation.’
Not true, say parents who also accuse the district of silencing their voices and concerns, refusing to take up the masking during board meetings.
“They shut us down when people try to talk in the board meetings,” said Cabral. “[Parents] are just getting messages back saying well, ‘we know you have other options. You can leave Allen ISD if you want.’ That’s what parents are getting, and these are our schools.”
Parents are demanding better, quicker contact tracing and more transparency from the district.
“We pay taxes to put our kids in public school and they should be able to go to public school and get a quality and safe education,” said Grefsrud becoming emotional. “The fact that we have to play COVID-roulette with our kids every time we send them to school, not knowing ... I’m sorry. It’s not OK.”
When it comes to anti-masking parents’ assertion that masks ‘don’t even work,’ the RN says this:
“Masks certainly do provide a level of protection to the individual wearing them, but they are not what we consider PPE, personal protective equipment. They’re being used as what we call ‘source control.’ Source control stops large droplets from exiting the person’s mouth and landing on another individual’s eyes, mouth or nose.”
A virtual learning option is not part of the federal lawsuit, although parents have requested it several times.
The group had to focus on one request given it involves a class-action lawsuit, so the group focused on requesting CDC guidelines be followed, allowing several measures to fall under that umbrella.