Douglas County School District to drop lawsuit over mask opt-out order

An amendment exempting DCSD from a public health order makes case moot, district says

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The Douglas County School District says it has accomplished what it set out to do when it filed a federal lawsuit against the Douglas County Health Department, and recommended the case be dismissed. 

Online court records show the court dismissed the lawsuit on Nov. 19 and vacated a status hearing scheduled for Nov. 22.

The health department passed a public health order on Oct. 8 that allowed anyone to opt out of masking mandates in the county, including in Douglas County Schools, which was requiring universal masking. The health order also limited quarantines for COVID-19 exposures not associated with an outbreak.

The district joined several families of students with disabilities in filing a federal lawsuit on Oct. 20. The suit alleged the health order violated civil rights by diminishing safe access to education for students at-risk of COVID-19. 

Judge John Kane granted the district's request for a temporary restraining order on Oct. 26, halting enforcement of the opt-out health order. The restraining order was later extended and had been set to last through at least Nov. 22. 

On Nov. 12, the health department amended its order so that the school district would be exempt. The health order as amended still applies to private businesses, including childcare centers and private schools.

Douglas County Schools issued a statement on Nov. 19 saying it agrees that amendment makes the case moot. The district, individual plaintiffs and the county board of health jointly filed a motion requesting the case be dismissed, according to the district's release. 

"With the school district now exempt from enforcement of the October 8 PHO, plaintiffs have succeeded and have fulfilled the purpose of the lawsuit they brought and there is no need to further litigate the matter," the release said.

 A DCSD spokesperson said  the district was not providing additional information when asked for comment from Superintendent Corey Wise and school board President David Ray.

Douglas County Board of Health President Doug Benevento provided a statement. 

"We amended our order consistent with the ruling of the court and look forward to working with the school board on the path forward," he said.

This story has been updated with a statement from the board of health.

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