On Tuesday, a group of Edmond Public School parents filed a lawsuit against the EPS School Board seeking a temporary and permanent injunction against certain aspects of the district’s revised Covid-19 policy.
This lawsuit was the result of a groundswell of opposition from EPS parents against the draconian segregation of unvaccinated students that has occurred throughout the district ever since the school board announced the changes to their “Return to Learning” policy just prior to the school year.
Prior to the suit being filed, numerous parents reached out to Ignite Liberty to voice their deep concerns, and downright anger, at how their children were being unfairly discriminated against due to a personal medical decision.
Their anger stemmed from a change in district policy at the beginning of the school year that only required healthy, unvaccinated students to quarantine after contact tracing indicated possible exposure. Meanwhile, their healthy, vaccinated counterparts could continue to attend school with the rest of the students. According to Stephanie Brady, a vocal member of the Edmond Chapter of the Parent’s Voice group, within 5 days of this policy going into effect over 2,500 healthy, unvaccinated children were forced to quarantine.
It is the Edmond Chapter of Parent’s Voice that has become the focal point of the resistance movement. Ignite Liberty spoke with Margaret Best, who was narrowly defeated in her run for EPS School Board last April, who serves as an administrator for the group about the growth and support they have experienced over recent weeks.
According to Best, the group started over a year ago in response to the 2020-2021 Covid restrictions put forth by the school district. At the time they only registered about 15-20 active parents showing up to meetings. However, in recent weeks the Facebook group alone has surged to well over 800 members with over 250 active parents. Their meetings now average about 100 parents in attendance. Their next meeting is tonight, September 16th, at 7:00pm at Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler at 33 E 33rd St, Edmond, OK 73013.
It is that surge of support that gave the parents named in the suit the courage to fight the school district’s policies. Earlier this week, Ignite Liberty interviewed Michael Grande, a member of the group helping coordinate with their legal team, about the lawsuit against the district.
According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the parents allege as part of their grounds the data from Covid-19 studies that:
“suggest significant emotional and behavior changes during quarantine in children and adolescents. Common reactions of children and adolescents to disasters, including health-related disasters, depends on the child’s age and developmental levels. While younger children may regress in behaviors, older children may become more anxious, angry, restless, and withdrawn while in quarantine.”
Both Grande and Brady emphasized this point in their interviews, pointing out the huge increase in reported depression among children under age 18. Even KFOR reported in an article dated November 18th, 2020 that metro-area counselors are seeing a massive increase in mental health problems in children under 18 that are directly related to forced quarantines.
For the EPS parents, the district’s policy amounted to nothing less than medical segregation, which violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Equal Protection clause states, in summary, that all laws must apply to all citizens equally. A governing body cannot, then, pass laws or regulations that only affect one group of citizens…in this case, the healthy, unvaccinated students.
The suit also alleges that the district’s policy violates SB 658. While a portion of that law has a temporary injunction against it, the only part of the law restricted by that injunction is the part that specifically bans masks mandates issued by school districts (70 O.S. 1210.189(A)(3)). The judge in that case left the remainder of the law intact.
The alleged violation of SB 658 according to the parent’s suit against EPS specifically names a different part of the law not affected by the temporary order, namely 70 O.S. 1210.189(A)(1), which bans public schools from “requiring vaccination against Covid-19 as a condition of admittance or to attendance of the school or institution.”
The hearing on the Temporary Restraining Order is scheduled for this Friday before Judge Don Andrews at the Oklahoma County Courthouse. Ignite Liberty will follow this case and provide updates as they are available.
District Cracks Down on Teachers
In addition to the change in policy for students, a number of concerned EPS teachers contacted Ignite Liberty earlier this week to inform us that their exemption forms for the district’s mask policy were being ignored. When we asked about any deadline or timetable for completion of the exemptions, they told us the district had not given one.
The problem this raised was that the teachers were not being allowed to come back into the classroom until the exemptions were signed, unless they were willing to put on a mask in the interim (which, they believed, would have risked their exemption being approved).
Instead, they were forced to take a personal, unpaid holiday for every single day they were forced to remain at home. Meanwhile the district simply hired substitute teachers to take their place. Conveniently enough, according to our reports the substitute teachers were not eligible to submit an exemption to the mask policy.
When we asked some of the teachers if they considered resigning and moving to another school district, they informed us that because of the structuring of their contracts it was impossible. If they resigned over the district’s mask policy EPS would still hold their contract, making them ineligible for employment in any other school district in the state.
Upon receiving these reports, Ignite Liberty reached out to Randy Decker, the HR Director for Edmond Public Schools, to inquire as to the district’s policy regarding the handling of exemptions. While Mr. Decker did not take our call, in our message we left him we inquired as to why many of the teacher’s exemptions had still gone unsigned, forcing them to stay home without pay while the school district hired substitute teachers in their stead.
Though Mr. Decker never returned our calls, those same teachers reached out to us on Wednesday to tell us that their exemptions had finally been approved only after our call to Mr. Decker.
Ignite Liberty will continue to monitor the developing situation at Edmond Public Schools and report on any new developments in this matter.