Court order sought to end mask mandate in Vegas-area schools

September 21, 2021 GMT

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Parents of students in the Las Vegas area who filed a lawsuit last month challenging Nevada’s COVID-19 mask mandates asked a federal judge on Monday to issue an emergency order allowing children to attend school without masks.

The lawsuit filed against Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and the Clark County School District says the district’s current policy requiring masks in schools regardless of vaccination status is causing psychological distress and emotional harm to students who must wear them.

It says the policy adopted under emergency directives issued by the governor and enforced by the attorney general, both Democrats, is unconstitutional because it violates parental rights and due process requirements.

The new filing Monday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas argues the worst of the pandemic has passed and that scientific evidence of the effectiveness of masks continues to be subject to debate.

One of the plaintiffs, Monica Branch-Noto, said in a declaration attached to the motion for a temporary injunction her son has never had any issues in school before. But she says that she and his teachers have seen “a significant negative change in his behavior” since masks were mandated.

“He has become this angry child that I don’t recognize. He cannot breathe, study, pay attention in class, concentrate or hear the teachers,” Branch-Noto said.

The other plaintiff, Tiffany Paulson, said the masks are affecting her two children’s relationships with teachers and friends. She said her daughter must wear a mask playing volleyball “cutting off the oxygen to her brain when she is already over exerting herself.”

An aide to Sisolak said Monday the governor had no comment. Spokespersons for Ford’s office and the Clark County School District said in emails to The Associated Press on Monday they don’t comment on ongoing litigation.

The parents’ lawyers include include Joey Gilbert, a Reno attorney running for governor, and Sigal Chattah, a Las Vegas attorney running for attorney general. Both are Republicans.

Chattah was one of the lawyers for a Nevada church that won an appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year that struck down the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on the size of religious gatherings that were in place at the time.

The new court filing cites contradictory signals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the effectiveness of masks in general, and CDC statistics that show school-age children are the least likely age group to suffer from COVID-19.

The CDC updated its guidance in May “to say fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting,” the motion states.

Two months later, with COVID-19 cases on the rise and the delta variant becoming more dominant, the CDC “changed course again, recommending fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission,” Chattah wrote.

“While scientists and purported experts figure out the science behind the virus, CCSD students are forced to endure wearing masks for 6-8 hours a day, while in school and engaging in extra-curricular school activities.”

“Simply put, the science simply does not justify the adverse effects caused to students on a daily basis,” she said.

Chattah said they waited 30 days to evaluate the need for mask mandates based on the latest CDC state profile reports.

But now, a month into the new school year, the state and school district “have no answers as to how long will students be required to wear face masks,” she wrote.

“Are students expected to wear masks forever? Will there be parental discretion ever in the future when it comes to efficacy and treatment of this virus, or will the state continue to engage in arbitrary health decisions for parents in violation of their constitutional rights.”


This story corrects an earlier version that said Sigal Chattah represented a Nevada church in a lawsuit challenging the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on the size of religious gatherings that went before the U.S. Supreme Court. She was one of the lawyers who represented a different Nevada church that won a related appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.