Hudson parents file lawsuit against school district over its COVID-19 quarantine and mask policies

Hudson Middle School campus
The lawsuit alleges that the school district doesn’t have the authority to require “students to quarantine if exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and wear masks in school.” [Kabir Bhatia / WKSU]

Updated: 3:50 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2022

Three Hudson school parents have filed a lawsuit in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas against the Hudson City School District, the school board and Superintendent Phil Herman over the district's COVID-19 mask and quarantine policies.

The lawsuit alleges that the school district does not have the authority to require “students to quarantine if exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and wear masks in school and treating unvaccinated and vaccinated students differently.”

The parents, George Carson, Sandra Althof, and Arabella Feil, filed the suit on behalf of their children. It was a last resort, according to their attorney Warner Mendenhall, who said the plaintiffs did “everything they could to inform the administration” about their objections to the district’s COVID policies.

“Nobody is failing to acknowledge that the virus can have a severe impact. It’s just that these parents recognize the policy failure of vaccination, masking and quarantining the way it’s being done,” Mendenhall told Ideastream Public Media.

The lawsuit questions the efficacy of wearing masks as a COVID-19 prevention strategy, citing a Centers for Disease Control study and U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization language. The plaintiffs allege Hudson schools treats its masked and unmasked students differently when it comes to quarantining.

“On January 6th, 2021, F.C., [a plaintiff’s child] with a mask exemption card for religious and/or medical reasons, was sent home after being identified as sitting near a COVID positive student. The sick child and another exposed child were directed to return to school four days later. F.C. has been asked to quarantine for 10 days at home,” the lawsuit cites as an example.

“If the district wants to allow parents to send their children to school with masks, that’s an appropriate policy. But they need to make sure that the decision-making is left with the parents in terms of masking,” Mendenhall went on to say.

Hudson City Schools declined Ideastream Public Media's request for an interview but said in a written statement Wednesday, “The top priority of the Hudson City School District is to ensure a safe education for its students. We have been made aware of the lawsuit, but have no further comment on the issue, since the matter is the subject of pending litigation."

Like many districts in Ohio, Hudson follows the Ohio Department of Health’s guidance, known as “Mask to Stay/Test to Play,” which allows students with exposures to stay in the classroom if masked.  

“They [the plaintiffs] want their kids to be healthy and happy. They want their kids to interact and understand people’s expressions and be able to respond to people’s expressions. And that’s just all part of living. And they want their kids to live a normal life,” Mendenhall said.

The Hudson school district has four weeks to file its response to the suit.

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