Mother and father sue W.Va. training leaders, governor over deferring COVID-19 precautions to counties | Information
CHARLESTON – Three mothers are suing Cabell County and West Virginia education directors and Governor Jim Justice for failing to set minimum safety requirements for COVID-19 in public schools.
“The state has now essentially delegated all COVID-related decision-making to the county school authorities without providing required metrics or minimum planning standards for these lay decision-makers, so children do not have adequate or equitable risk assessment metrics or exposure control plans,” the lawsuit reads.
“Children with special needs are particularly at risk and completely unprotected without consistent, risk-based planning of exposure controls,” the lawsuit said.
Two of the mothers have immunocompromised husbands and children who need special education.
“There does not seem to be any coherent crisis prevention and management planning nationwide or for individual schools,” Anderson said in a statement.
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday argues that online schools are “functionally unavailable” in lieu of in-person education for Cabell students who need educational housing because of their disabilities.
Parents, represented by Beckley-based attorney Sam Petsonk, petition Kanawha District Court Judge Duke Bloom to explain that Cabell’s Schools Board has violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act.
However, after previously declining, Cabell County’s education committee members voted Thursday for a mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors indoors, regardless of vaccination status. In the open air there would be no mask requirement.
Petsonk did not want to comment on the status of the lawsuit after the vote on Thursday evening.
The parents also ask Bloom to ask the defendant to show why they should not be viewed as violating other laws and the state constitution. Defendants include the West Virginia Board of Education, the Department of Education, the School Building Authority, and the state and Cabell School Superintendents.
Nobody commented on the allegations on Wednesday.
The lawsuit calls on Bloom to grant whatever other facilities he deems “just and just”.
“Counties across the state face materially identical risks of disease transmission in schools, and yet the counties’ education authorities have taken vastly different protective measures to prevent potential infections or the transmission of COVID-19,” the lawsuit said. “Some of these counties, like Cabell, have directly contradicted the medical guidelines they were given regarding adequate protection from such a disease.”
The lawsuit alleges that Cabell’s board of directors’ earlier decision to keep masks optional violated a state school board policy that the county school systems “cooperate” with local health officials for “health promotion, disease prevention, control and Curbing Communicable Diseases in Schools ”.
Superintendent Ryan Saxe said Thursday’s BOE vote was not affected by the filing of the lawsuit.
“There are no legal disputes that determine our actions. We do the best for our students and we will continue to do the best for our students every day, ”said Saxe. “Sometimes we find that in creating a policy we learn more after implementing that policy that requires us to go back, think about it, and make changes.”
State education leaders fail, according to the lawsuit, to provide students with their constitutionally guaranteed “thorough and efficient” education by failing to ensure that Cabell children are protected in the same way as those in other counties who face similar risks. The lawsuit criticizes the guidance document released by the state education ministry last month.
“The document does not appear to require any identifiable action,” the lawsuit said. “It does not require standardized metrics that local (educational) committees must use to assess the risk of potential exposure. It does not set any thresholds above which the boards must take certain minimum protective measures. “
This threatens the continuation of personal learning, it says in the lawsuit.
“The closure of classrooms, schools and entire school districts due to the transmission of COVID in 2021 has already begun,” says the lawsuit, “and such closings will with a reasonable degree of probability take place earlier and more extensively if the defendants do not have a comparable minimum protection against potential Risks ensure infection that is consistent with the relevant medical recommendations in all counties. “
The governor’s office went unresponsive on Wednesday, but the governor’s chief of staff, Brian Abraham, responded to Petsonk’s notification last month that a potential lawsuit was imminent.
Noting the Republican governor’s previous court victories over those who questioned his COVID-19 policies, Abraham noted that vaccines are now available for people 12 and older.
Abraham declined the request for dialogue from Petsonk, the Democratic Party candidate for the 2020 attorney general office, to avoid litigation.
“You certainly have political ambition,” wrote Abraham, “but to my knowledge you are not an expert in medicine or health, epidemiology, vaccine development, logistics, strategic planning, or any other area that could provide a useful base of expertise, making solid recommendations to the governor . “