Charleston parents sue to block COVID mask rule, saying ‘rights are being taken away’

·2 min read

A cadre of parents and a charter school teacher are suing to try and stop a mask mandate inside South Carolina’s second-largest school district and prevent further COVID-19 requirements from going into effect.

Filed Friday in Charleston County circuit court, the lawsuit is against the Charleston County School District and all nine of its school board members, along with East Cooper Montessori Charter School and both the county and city of Charleston.

The suit asks a judge to find the school district, the charter school and local governments in contempt of court. The plaintiffs then want children and teachers to attend school without a mask or vaccine.

The legal challenge ignites yet another battle in the courts over pandemic policy in South Carolina.

Earlier this week, a group of City of North Charleston employees filed a lawsuit against their employer, the state’s third-largest city, after the municipality announced Sept. 2 that all of its employees much get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 5.

In that suit, the plaintiffs claim the mandate violates their rights to free expression under the South Carolina Constitution and free speech granted by the U.S. Constitution.

And Wednesday, parents sued the city of Columbia and the Richland 1 School District over its mask requirement for students.

However, the suit filed Friday goes a touch further than other litigation in its scope.

Along with challenging the legality of mask mandates for students, the suit also takes aim at other COVID-19 safety measures, including the school district’s quarantine policy for students and mask mandates and vaccine requirements for charter school employees.

“Forced masks equals forced vax,” said Charleston attorney Josh Hooser, who is representing the two sets of parents and the charter school teacher in the case. He also is representing the Richland 1 parents in their suit against the capital city and the school district over its mask requirement.

“Once you give up your liberties in one context, they can go after them in another context,” Hooser said in a phone interview Friday morning.

John Cooke and Monica Cooke, who are parents of a student at Wando High School, said their healthy child should be in the classroom, learning in person, regardless of their vaccination status.

This year, that has not been the case, they said in an affidavit submitted to the court.

“We strongly feel like our parental rights are being taken away from us by a school board and county that are wildly overstepping their responsibilities with their vaccine and masking policies,” John Cooke and Monica Cooke said in an affidavit submitted to the court.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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