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Judge’s ruling keeps masks on in Boardman

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Boardman Glenwood Junior High seventh- and eighth-graders leave school Wednesday afternoon. A judge on Wednesday refused to temporarily halt the mask mandate imposed on students in the Boardman Local School District. A hearing on the mandate is set Jan. 27.

YOUNGSTOWN — A judge refused Wednesday to stop temporarily the mask mandate imposed on students in the Boardman Local School District.

Judge Anthony Donofrio of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court issued a ruling after a parents group filed a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order request. Seeking to overturn a school district requirement that students wear masks, the lawsuit argued that the school system did not have the authority to impose it and the policy is unconstitutional and unreasonable.

The TRO asked that the mask mandate be eliminated temporarily while the school district and parents group fully argue the issue. A hearing is set for Jan. 27 before Donofrio to hear evidence.

“On its face, the reasons for the Boardman Local Schools’ policy appears to have a rational basis, the policy is not unreasonable, and there appears to be a reasonable basis between the rule and the furtherance of a valid educational purpose, to wit, continued in-person classroom teaching,” the ruling states.

It states that the parents group, called the Boardman Ohio Parents Organization, has “not shown a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits in establishing that the (school district mask policy) violates the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution” or the Ohio Constitution.

After meeting with the attorneys for the school district and the parents group last week and reading the filings, Donofrio also did not find that the school district lacked the authority to institute the mask policy, the ruling states.

The parents group also did not show that irreparable injury will occur as a result of the mask mandate that is in effect, the ruling states.

“Local school district policies requiring students to wear face masks to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus have been upheld in (federal) District Courts of the Northern District of Ohio and Northern District of New York,” the ruling states.

Furthermore, a federal district court ruling to deny a TRO against a school face mask policy imposed by a health department was upheld by a federal appeals court, the ruling stated.

The Boardman face mask policy exempts the face mask requirement in 14 instances, the ruling notes. The requirement does not apply in cases in which it is necessary for medical or developmental reasons, it states.

Attorney John Zamoida Jr., who represents the parents group, said of Donofrio’s ruling: “My clients recognized the difficult burden of proof they had in obtaining the temporary restraining order, especially since the court did not conduct an evidentiary hearing before making its decision.

“My clients remain optimistic about their case and look forward to fully presenting their evidence at trial. They remain unwavering in their fight to protect the best interests of their children and against arbitrary and capricious government overreach.”

The www.boardman

parents.com webpage states that the Boardman Ohio Parents Association is “not in any way an anti-mask group. In fact, we are fighting for all parents. Whether you want your child to wear a mask or not, it must be your decision.”

Amy Radinovic, spokesperson for Boardman schools, said of the ruling: “We’re pleased with the judge’s decision.”

After last week’s meeting in chambers between the judge and the attorneys for the parties, Maria Limbert Markis, attorney for Boardman schools, read a statement saying: “Boardman’s face mask policy is fully complying with the Ohio Department of Education, state and federal health agencies. Other courts in Ohio have specifically found school face masks reasonable and constitutional.”

But filings by the parents asked the judge to consider research indicating children could be facing more harm than good.

They cited a study on mask use in 24,930 school children that found 68 percent “complained about impairments caused by wearing mask,” including “irritability (60 percent); headache (53 percent); difficulty concentrating (50 percent); less happiness (49 percent); reluctance to go to school / kindergarten (44 percent); malaise (42 percent); impaired learning (38 percent); and drowsiness / fatigue (37 percent).

“Additionally, mask use by children is detrimental to their communication skills at a critical stage of their development,” the filings stated.

The World Health Organization “notes that masking children raises social and communications concerns,” the suit states. Specifically, researchers are concerned that masks may “hinder verbal and nonverbal communication,” the filing states.

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