(WXYZ) — Multiple groups are making the argument that the Oakland County Health Department’s mask mandate in schools is illegal. Families have mixed reactions to the news.
“I don’t think masks work,” said Tim Moore, a grandfather in Walled Lake who wants to see mask mandates end.
“Until we get better numbers, there is just no reason to remove them. The kids breathe just fine with them on,” said Jaime Lewis, a Walled Lake mom.
The Thomas More Society sent a letter to Walled Lake Consolidated Schools demanding an end to mask mandates.
It is something Walled Lake sixth-grader Lily Louis says makes her feel worried.
“I have older family and they could get sick very easily. Their immune systems aren’t as high as mine is. I care more about their health than mine,” said Lily.
Attorney David Kallman filed a lawsuit making a similar argument to the letter against three other districts, Troy, Waterford, and Huron Valley Schools. He says he represents parents who do not want to be named.
“They are fed up. They have had enough. Children are not dying from COVID,” said Kallman.
The lawsuit has the potential to impact all Oakland County Schools. It also names the Oakland County Health Department, saying that the budget bill passed last year banned the health department from mandating masks for anyone under 18.
“It had a clause in it that said specifically that county health directors cannot issue or enforce mask mandate orders against children under the age of 18. So there is a law against this and they are violating the law,” said Kallman.
The budget bill did say in Sec. 250, “The director or a local health officer shall not issue or enforce any orders or other directives that require an individual in this state who is under the age of 18 to wear a face mask or face covering.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer wrote a letter when she signed the budget bill. She wrote that the clause was unconstitutional because of how it was written and therefore unenforceable. You can read the letter here.
WXYZ went to an attorney not involved to ask, how does that work?
“You sign it, you sign it,” said Attorney Arnold Reed.
Reed says the governor shared her opinion to send a message about the bill and now it will be up to a judge to decide. He says the lawsuit makes valid points for the court to consider.
“End of the day, they are going to take the gloves off and battle this out in the courtroom,” said Reed.
The Oakland County Health Department and Troy Schools declined to comment on pending litigation.
Huron Valley Schools released a statement saying:
Throughout the pandemic Huron Valley Schools has worked diligently to protect the health and safety of the district’s students, while supporting their academic and social-emotional needs. We have balanced the ever-changing recommendations and mandates from local health agencies and made learning a priority (in person and virtual options). Now we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to defend against a lawsuit that drains resources from the classroom, as well as mental health supports. Huron Valley Schools has received decisive legal counsel regarding its obligation to uphold the masking order issued by the Oakland County Health Division last August. It is within this context that the school district has implemented its masking requirements for the 2021-2022 school year. For several weeks we’ve been actively engaged in conversations with the local health department to transition from COVID as a pandemic to an endemic (common among the population). So it’s unfortunate that this lawsuit comes at this time and detracts from these efforts.
Waterford School District released a statement saying:
Waterford School District follows all emergency orders issued by the Oakland County Health Division, including the order specifically addressing the use of face coverings in schools. As a school district in Oakland County, we have been advised by our legal counsel to comply with these mandates.
Walled Lake Consolidated Schools responded to the letter demanding an end to its mask mandates saying:
At the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, masks were to be recommended but not required in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District. Following the Oakland County Health Division’s Emergency Order for Pandemic Control in August 2021, the District was required to follow the protocols and procedures set forth by the Emergency Order. Attorneys have cautioned that the District must comply with the order. For further comment on the status of Oakland County Health Division’s order, please contact the Oakland County Health Division.
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