A microcosm of the vocal national movement opposing mask use by schoolchildren is playing out here in Sonoma County.
A lawsuit was one thing Daniel Hoffman...superintendent and principal at Petaluma charter school Dunham Elementary...said he didn't see coming. "Yeah, it was surprising."
The suit, filed by an attorney with a child in the school and other parents, accuses the Dunham School District of overstepping it's bounds by requiring students to mask up during recess or other outdoor campus activities. The suit was filed on the 20th.
Hoffman said after a conversation with an unhappy parent, the issue quickly escalated. He says the district is following a strong recommendation from Sonoma County's health officer.
"Our end goal is to keep kids safe and keep kids in school. They missed over a year of in person instruction, and with the options we have or don't have for quarantine, this was the safest as well as the best route."
Without masks, potential exposure requires quarantining at home.
Jennifer Nix, senior associate at School & College Legal Services, representing the district, said the plaintiff argues the situation is at odds with fundamental legal concepts. "The complaint actually raises claims that the parents constitutional rights are being violated by the school district action with requiring children to wear masks outdoors."
Last week, Superior Court Judge Arthur Wick rejected a request to invalidate the mask policy while the suit proceeds.
Hoffman's reaction: "We were very pleased to hear the judge's ruling on it."
The district may try and have the case dismissed and may countersue for legal costs. Nix said courts around the nation have ruled schools can require masks, even outdoors.
"I do not see that a neutral requirement for children to wear masks outdoors violates the US constitution or the California constitution, specifically with regard to the rights of parents."
Emails and phone calls to plaintiffs' attorneys James Rush and Scott Cohen at Rush Injury Law, were not returned.