Hingham parents involved in lawsuit against public schools mask mandate

October 7, 2021 by Carol Britton Meyer

Some Hingham parents are part of five lawsuits against the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education and the Hingham Public Schools and other school districts that challenge state and local mask mandates.

The public schools mandate issued by Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Riley last August -- requiring all K-12 public schools students ages five and older, educators, staff, and visitors to wear face masks until at least Oct. 1 in order to provide time to increase the vaccination rate in school buildings -- was recently extended until Nov. 1 or later, at Riley's discretion.

The commissioner’s initial policy called for allowing middle and high schools to potentially lift the mask mandate for vaccinated students and staff only after Oct. 1 if they reached a certain vaccination threshold – that at least 80 percent of students and staff, combined, in a school building are vaccinated.

"All the school districts being sued have parents with children attending school in those districts," Robert Fojo, the attorney for the five lawsuits told the Hingham Anchor.  Other districts being challenged in lawsuits include Carver and West Bridgewater.

Children's Health Rights of Massachusetts is also a plaintiff in three of the lawsuits, including the one against the Hingham and other school districts, because some members of that organization are parents with children enrolled in public school districts that are being sued.

Fojo, a New Hampshire lawyer who also practices in Massachusetts, said that any party he is representing "contacted me directly." He is also representing parents in his own state in similar lawsuits challenging school district mask mandates.

Fojo explained the reason behind the lawsuits. "DESE and school districts don't have the statutory authority to pass broad health measures like these," he said, noting that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's existing statutes and rules "don't provide for a broad mask mandate in response to coronavirus."

Fojo opposes DESE's attempt to consolidate these five lawsuits into another action pending against DESE in Hampden Superior Court. "Our lawsuits include expedited requests for injunctive relief," he said, which includes requesting an order at the beginning of the lawsuit proceedings that would prohibit mask mandates in the communities involved in the five lawsuits from being enforced until the case is decided.

"We also requested that our clients' cases be heard on an expedited basis," Fojo said. "At this point, I'm not sure whether the lawsuits will be consolidated, the injunction request honored, or when the cases will be heard."

Another concern with potential consolidation of the lawsuits is that the Hampden Court lawsuits don't request expedited injunctive relief, whereas the five lawsuits filed by Fojo do.  "If the cases are consolidated, our request won't be [considered]," he said.

The targeted date for the cases to be resolved is "as soon as possible," according to Fojo.

"A favorable outcome -- meaning if DESE loses the lawsuit -- would invalidate DESE's mask mandate," he said. "We would then try to use this decision to force the school districts involved in the lawsuits to rescind their mandates as well."

Interim Hingham Public Schools Supt. Gary Maestas and and School Committee Chair Kerry Ni declined to comment when contacted by the Hingham Anchor.

8 thoughts on “Hingham parents involved in lawsuit against public schools mask mandate”

  1. Bravo to these parents! We are all so sick of having our kids muzzled. There is NO data to show that dirty cloth masks contain minute respiratory particles. Let kids breathe.

    • On the contrary, there is an abundance of data demonstrating that masks are an effective means of reduing transmission. Here are just a few quick examples of published, peer-reviewed, scientific papers that conclude that masks are efficacious in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2:

      Chu et al. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet (2020)

      MacIntyre et al. A rapid systematic review of the efficacy of face masks and respirators against coronaviruses and other respiratory transmissible viruses for the community, healthcare workers and sick patients. International Journal of Nursing Studies (2020).

      Howard et al. Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review. Proceedings National Academy Sciences (2020).

      Matuschek et al. Face masks: benefits and risks during the COVID-19 crisis. Eur J Med Res. 2020 Aug 12;25(1):32.

  2. I am a school nurse and have lost several family members to Covid. People who consider sending their children to school unmasked do not care in the least if you, your children or your elderly parents become gravely ill or die. These parents suing the DESE so their children don’t have to wear masks represent the worst society has to offer in a time touting kindness and anti-bullying as a community goal. I hate wearing a mask. My kids hate wearing a mask. Who cares? This is what we do for each other. This sacrifice is part of what makes us a society.

  3. This makes me sad. More animosity towards educators and the public schools only furthers the divisiveness. At the rate we are going no one will want to become a public school teacher.

  4. If they had the courage of their convictions, they wouldn’t be hiding anonymously behind an attorney and outside, politically-motivated interest groups. It’s embarrassing, the level of ignorance, cowardice, and selfishness. Not to mention the willingness to be a pawn for outside players. Lets hope this ends quickly and correctly.

  5. So thankful for our volunteer school board members, you all are some kind of wonderful!

    Appreciative of all the teachers, staff, & school leadership. I’m guessing Hingham is not exempt from the para professional shortage issue plaguing MA and all over. Lack of paras means less breaks (like a simple bathroom break). Will a lack of subs and/or paras mean remote if a teacher is out sick this winter? Fingers crossed we retain our school leadership this year and more subs and paras apply for jobs. And let us hope the empathy deficit is not contagious as a teacher may have a sick family member with a weakened immune system but needs the job as a teacher.

    “And as we have seen in previous years, the substitute shortage claims second place — though it is close to becoming the most common shortage.”

    The Teacher Shortage, 2021 Edition:


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