Mask mandate lawsuit dismissed by Berrien County judge

ST. JOSEPH, Mi. -- A lawsuit over the in-school mask mandates has been thrown out by a Berrien County judge.

Several parents, on behalf of their children, filed suit against Watervliet, St. Joseph and Lakeshore schools, in order to fight any current or future mandates.

The lawsuit was filed to provide clarity on MCL 380.10 in the Michigan state school code.

“It declares that it is the fundamental right of the parent to direct the education, care and teaching of their children," said Victory Woodall, with Parents for School Freedom, representing the plaintiffs. "To us that’s very self explanatory.”

They argued that a school enforcing a mask mandate goes against that part of the code-- and opted to file suit in January, to determine if their beliefs had a legal basis. However, after the lawsuit was field, the schools repealed their mandates, and Berrien County judge Dennis Wiley determined that the lawsuit was now moot. 

“All we asked for is clarification of the law," Woodall said. "And the parents and the students and the schools deserve that. The kids deserve that, but for some reason we were denied the opportunity to get clarity on what the legislature meant. They can go and implement the mask mandate again tomorrow and we would have to re-file and pay for attorneys all over again, so it’s really really frustrating.”

The plaintiffs' counsel filed to resent the motion for a hearing, but overslept, appearing in the courtroom late; the motion was rejected by Judge Wiley. 

Even so, the parents are not deterred by the dismissal. 

“We’re exploring the options of an appeal right now, though we’re not sure if that’s something we can do or not," said Woodall. "
We’re talking with our attorney about what our next steps are.”

Though they feel now with this dismissal, they might have to wait for another mask mandate to be put into effect-- and after the CDC extended the mask mandate for airline travel-- they feel it may come sooner than later. 

“They will continue doing it until people stand up, so that’s what we have to do, continuing to standing up and pushing back until we have the freedom to choose what’s best for ourselves and our health," Woodall said. 

The Watervliet, St. Joseph and Lakeshore school districts all declined to comment on the lawsuit's dismissal. 

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