Douglas County, school district, settle legal fees over mask lawsuit

County will pay $90,000 for coordinator position

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The Douglas County Board of Health and the Douglas County School District have decided to call it even on a 2021 lawsuit regarding mask rules, with the county promising to pay the district $90,000 for a psychological safety coordinator. 

The settlement comes after the school board in October sued the health department for enacting an order that allowed parents to opt their students out of mask requirements.

The order was one of the first decisions by the Douglas County Board of Health after the county formed its own health agency and split from Tri-County Health Department over its mask requirements.

“We are unified in our focus on what’s best for the communities we collectively serve,” said Doug Benevento, president of the Douglas County Board of Health, according to an emailed news release. “We look forward to our continued relationship with our school district and our mutually beneficial support for mental and behavioral health among our community’s youth.”

The case resulted in the Board of Health amending their order to exclude the school district.

After the case was resolved, a judge ordered the county to pay for the district’s legal fees and the two parties have been working on a settlement since. Now, they’ve agreed they will each pay their own legal fees, plus the county will fund the coordinator position.

The person in that position will “provide coordination, leaderhsip and facilitation of all components of district safety assessments and services, including mandatory child abuse reporting, suicide assessments, threat assessments and crisis team response,” according to the settlement.

“The psychological safety of our students and staff directly benefits physical safety, educational growth, and the positive culture the entire Board of Education, staff, and teachers are dedicated to providing for the district,” said Mike Peterson, president of Douglas County School District Board of Education, according to the release. 

The district’s lawsuit was filed by a previous school board before the November election. The plaintiffs also included nine families of students with conditions ranging from cystic fibrosis, autism and Down’s syndrome to rare genetic disorders, severe respiratory disorders and asthma.

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