State lawmakers and public school officials should heed parents’ concerns about quarantining healthy children and forcing them into masks so parents don’t have to file lawsuits to defend their rights, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) told The Federalist in a statement Monday afternoon.
The Federalist reported Monday morning on four Indiana families who were driven to file a lawsuit against Gov. Eric Holcomb (R), his state health agency, their school district, and others after getting nowhere with months of contacting state lawmakers, local health authorities, their local school board and superintendent, their members of Congress, and other local officials about their concerns.
“Why are we doing this?” said father of four Mike Bell, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, in an interview. “When we ask the school questions, they point to directions from various groups — and those would be health, municipalities, or the governor or someone else in the administration — so we kind of noticed through discussion that everyone just kept pointing to someone else” and never substantively responding to parents’ questions and concerns about the disruptive and irrational rules imposed on kids for now going on three school years.
The governor’s COVID rules are leading to yet another disrupted and damaging school year, the parents told The Federalist Sunday, noting that the vast majority of children their schools are sending home to quarantine based on state rules are perfectly healthy. Hoosier children’s “activities and even their grades and their friends are tied to following these rules that go, as we view it, against not just the Indiana code but the Constitution and our liberties as Americans,” said parent plaintiff Natalie Forbing.
The lawsuit alleges it’s a violation of the U.S. and Indiana constitutions to force healthy children to quarantine from school for potentially limitless two-week periods because they’ve been around a COVID-positive person for a cumulative 15 minutes in a day, as Holcomb’s health department has directed. It also alleges that the governor’s school COVID rules are “capricious” and “arbitrary.” Children are less at risk from COVID than from the seasonal flu, and for teachers who are concerned the vaccines are widely available in Indiana — and free.
“It’s a head-scratcher: When you look at the data that has been made available, why the most restrictive requirements are being placed on the least at-risk community,” the parents’ attorney, Kevin Mitchell, told The Federalist in a separate interview last week. He noted that Hoosiers are freely attending pro sports games, festivals, shopping malls, and more, with the majority choosing not to wear masks at such mass public events. Still, schools are still highly restricted, and it’s hurting kids emotionally, socially, and intellectually.
"Since COVID-19 operates in a highly age specific manner, mandated counter measures must also be age specific. If not, lives will be unnecessarily lost." https://t.co/M0FQOVgQZy pic.twitter.com/8XR9869fHe
— Martin Kulldorff (@MartinKulldorff) April 10, 2020
Based on data widely available to health authorities as early as spring 2020, myriad first-world nations sent children back to school in person, often without masks, by fall 2020. Yet American students are still subject to continued frustration and impediments to their school attendance, even in Republican-controlled states such as Indiana, where the COVID chaos now continues into its third school year.
In response to The Federalist story about the parents’ lawsuit, Rokita’s office sent the following statement on his behalf:
The concerns raised by a group of parents and shared by thousands of others should be heeded voluntarily in favor of individual liberty and educational freedom.
The legislative and executive branches of government need to take action to safeguard Hoosiers’ liberties and freedoms. This can be addressed either in the upcoming session of the Legislature via statute and by the Governor amending or rescinding parts of his emergency order in a manner that adequately addresses parents’ concerns regarding mask mandates.
Both options would forgo costly litigation and protect Indiana taxpayers, which is always my top priority.
Although Indiana’s emergency powers law specifies that it extends only to 30 days, Holcomb has claimed the power to renew it, and under it emergency dictates such as quarantine rules, an unprecedented 17 times. The parents are crowdfunding their legal expenses here.