During the last school year when Shannon Jensen and Gina Kildahl sent their kids back to their Wisconsin schools, everyone had to wear masks. But when school restarted this fall, that was not the case – even as health experts warned that masks were necessary to keep a new highly contagious coronavirus variant from sweeping classrooms.
Ms. Jensen and Ms. Kildahl both sent their sons in masks to their elementary schools anyway. Ms. Jensen’s son attends Rose Glen Elementary School in Waukesha, outside Milwaukee. Ms. Kildahl’s son attends school at Fall Creek Elementary, about 200 miles away, between Green Bay and Minneapolis.
Within weeks into the new school year, both boys tested positive for the coronavirus. The lawsuits filed in two Wisconsin federal courts this month blamed the schools’ lax policies on masks, quarantines and contact tracing.
Both the boards of education for the school district of Waukesha and the school district of Fall Creek voted to end several COVID-19 mitigation policies implemented last year, according to two lawsuits. That included getting rid of universal mask requirements.
The move defied strategies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the lawsuits added. Jensen’s lawsuit was filed in a federal court in eastern Wisconsin on October 6 Ms. Kildahl’s lawsuit was filed Monday in Wisconsin’s Western District Court.
By holding classes without adequate safeguards, Ms Jensen’s lawsuit alleged, cases of Covid spread in the district’s schools. The school district and its boards are “deliberately, recklessly, unreasonably, and recklessly exposing the public to COVID-19 . . . endangering public health,” her lawsuit adds.
Both lawsuits were funded by the Minoqua Brewing Company Super Political Action Committee based out of northern Wisconsin. The committee is headed by Kirk Bungstead, who ran for the Wisconsin state assembly last year as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Rob Scheringen. Ms Bangstad, who was forced to close her brewery during the pandemic, has been critical of her state’s handling of the health crisis.
He said he was disappointed to see Wisconsin school board meetings filled with anti-mask protesters, which he called a “very loud and obnoxious minority.” When she asked on her podcast and the brewery’s Facebook page whether parents were concerned that skipping safety policies would harm their children, Ms Bungstad said she received hundreds of responses.
“We are looking forward to filing a class-action suit against all school boards in Wisconsin that are not providing CDC-recommended mitigation for students,” he said. Post on Monday night. The goal, Mr. Bangstad said, is to “notice these school boards that are anti-science and anti-mask.”
Officials representing both schools declined to comment on the lawsuits. Attorney Frederick Meles, representing Ms. Jensen and Ms. Kildahl, told Post It is dangerous when schools allow students to step out wearing masks.
“We’re hoping to get a judge that [will] Tell them to do the right thing,” said Mr Meles. “It’s unfortunate that it came.”
Should children be required to wear masks in schools, it has become a flash point across the United States as the global pandemic nears its third year. Many schools stopped in-person learning at the start of the pandemic, but health officials said it was important to get students back to classes this year – with the right protection.
CDC officials said last month that there were fewer pediatric coronavirus cases and school outbreaks where masks are required in the classroom. But the issue continues to divide communities, including in Wisconsin, where school board meetings have become volatile as members debate whether children should wear face coverings. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, which has been proven to protect people from COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Ms Jensen and Ms Kildahl both said in their lawsuits that masked students exposed their sons to the coronavirus. Ms Jensen’s son tested positive on 19 September – less than three weeks into the new school year. Ms Kildahl’s son tested positive on 27 September, less than four weeks after school began.
Both children missed school for several days after testing positive for the virus.
“Your child may continue to attend school and participate in extra-curricular activities,” said the September 20 notification from the school.
Within days, Ms Jensen said she learned that four children in her son’s class had the virus.
“It appears that there was an outbreak in the classroom and there was a significant delay in sending notifications to parents,” the lawsuit said. “… [T]There was no actual contact tracing being done at the school here, only the blanket notifying parents when a child in the classroom tested positive, usually several days later. “
Those failures, his lawsuit alleged, “unnecessarily and recklessly put Wisconsin schoolchildren and their communities at risk of serious illness and death.” Without knowing that her son might have COVID, Sue adds, she attended a Cub Scout camp, church, a festival, a community parade and a car show, “potentially exposing hundreds of local citizens.”
Ms. Jensen and Ms. Kildahl’s lawyer said their clients began this effort to make not only their districts safer, but also those across their state.
“These school districts have decided to bury their heads in the stands without any real kind of logic behind it,” Mr Meles said. “They are just ignoring guidance from the Department of Health, from the CDC, from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. It’s really reckless.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Wisconsin