Parents Said Masking Mandate Infringed on Their Decision-Making Rights, Judge Disagrees

A federal judge upheld a Las Vegas-area school's mask mandate Wednesday, ruling against a lawsuit two parents filed claiming the mandate infringed on their rights.

Two attorneys for the parents, Sigal Chattah and Joey Gilbert—both Republicans running for state office in 2022—argued that the parents did not have a say in the Clark County School District's mandate, which violated their right to make medical decisions for their children.

The attorneys added that the "visual impairment" caused by glasses fogging up when wearing a mask and the increased carbon dioxide levels were causing physical harm. Also, they asserted that covering the face would negatively affect the children's ability to "connect emotionally."

In a 22-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey denied the parents' preliminary injunction request, saying it had established no legal basis.

"The Constitution does not require an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process for such broadly applicable policies, and the fundamental right to parent does not include the prerogative to dictate school health and safety policies," Dorsey wrote in the ruling.

She also added that there is a history of administrators being able to make decisions for the public's health, which parental rights would not overrule.

Henderson, Nevada, Clark County
A judge denied a lawsuit that would block the Clark County School District's mask mandate. Above, an aerial view of Henderson, Nevada, in Clark County, July 1. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The ruling comes as schools and businesses prepare for another variant-fueled surge and fights over coronavirus measures in schools continue to provoke spirited responses from parents and teachers on both sides of the issue.

Dorsey said the court did not have a basis to intervene in the district's decision, but noted that one of the articles cited challenging the efficacy of masks was written by a freelance writer out of Utah and another submitted by the plaintiffs concluded that an increase in carbon dioxide levels was "not physiologically significant."

In her ruling, she wrote that the parental rights enshrined by prior decisions have not been broad enough in scope to outweigh the interests of administrators in imposing a mask mandate. Administrators have long been allowed to make decisions in the interest of general welfare, health and safety, the ruling says.

The dismissal also notes that the parents' lawyers denied in court that there was a COVID-19 pandemic though it was acknowledged by the World Health Organization, the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said the decision ensured classrooms would be as safe as they can be and vowed to continue to defend health experts against "those who wish to peddle debunked, fear-mongering arguments in the court of law."

Chattah said on Twitter that the ruling would be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Chattah is running for Ford's seat in next year's election. Gilbert, the parent's other attorney, is running for governor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Clark County School District, Nevada
Two parents are attempting to sue Clark County School District for their mask mandate. Above, CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara visits Dana Dyer and her students as she teaches an online seventh grade algebra class from her empty classroom at Walter Johnson Junior High School on August 24, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images