Judge dismisses Boardman parent mask suit

YOUNGSTOWN — Judge Benita Y. Pearson of U.S. District Court has dismissed a lawsuit a parents group in Boardman filed last October against Boardman Local Schools over the mask mandate the school district imposed before the start of last school year.

Ten parents, referring to themselves as the Boardman Ohio Parents Organization, filed the suit. It sought a restraining order that would have prevented the school district from enforcing the mask requirement.

The school district filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings in January that asked the judge to dismiss the suit, and the judge approved the motion Thursday, saying the parents group does not have standing to bring the action.

The school board argued that the parents did not have standing because they have not demonstrated an “injury-in-fact,” meaning an actual injury involving “real world harm.”

In some cases, an allegation that contains a threat of future harm could be sufficient to meet the injury-in-fact requirement, but an allegation of future injury “may suffice if the threatened injury is ‘certainly impending’ or there is a ‘substantial risk’ that the harm will occur,” the ruling states.

Also, an injury-in-fact is one that stems from “an invasion of a legally protected interest” that is “particularized,” the ruling adds. An interest is particularized when the injury affects the plaintiff in a “personal and individual way,” the ruling states.

The parents’ complaint “makes various factual claims about the efficacy and risks of wearing masks to combat the spread of COVID-19,” such as impairing them from getting their education by diminishing their ability to communicate and negatively affecting their bodies from prolonged exposure to low oxygen levels, the ruling states.

The school district argued that these claims of risks associated with wearing face masks are not enough to confer standing. And the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has yet to rule on that issue, the ruling adds.

The school district cited multiple rulings in which judges ruled that plaintiffs were unable to demonstrate an injury-in-fact when their main argument was that they “simply alleged ‘serious health related risks directly linked to'” wearing masks, the ruling adds.

The court found such rulings to be “sound,” saying the parents “have not shown how likely it is that those harms will affect” children.

“Even when the court assumes that the (parents’) factual allegations are true, those factual allegations do not properly support the complaint in a way the confers standing,” the ruling states.

“Instead, the factual allegations merely speculate that the risk of harm to (the) plaintiffs is substantial.”

The ruling noted that the parents’ complaint relies on a study that found 68 percent of children complained of impairments caused by wearing masks, but “This study, even if true, does not support (the parents’) allegations. Just because 68 percent of the children surveyed complained of impairments does not necessarily mean that 68 percent of the plaintiffs’ children are at risk of experiencing the same issues, and the complaint does not allege so.”

The ruling states that the U.S. Constitution limits the court’s jurisdiction to resolving “cases” and “controversies,” but the parents did not allege an “injury-in-fact” and therefore do not have standing to bring the action.

The suit was filed by attorney John Zomoida Jr.



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