Parents file lawsuit against Gwinnett Board of Education looking to end mask mandate

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A group of parents has filed a lawsuit trying to end the Gwinnett County School District’s mask mandate.

The lawsuit also wants a preliminary injunction in place to halt the mandate until the case is decided.

School district lawyers have already filed a motion to dismiss.

The group, made up of parents who have been protesting the state’s largest school district’s COVID-19 restrictions for months, filed the lawsuit Tuesday.

It reads, in part: “Despite the authority to issue mask mandates being explicitly withdrawn by Governor Kemp, the Gwinnett County School District ...has decided, without authority, (to) make its own laws and rule and issue its own mask mandate.”

Holly Terei is one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

“At the end of the day, all parents want is a choice. Just give us a choice,” she told Channel 2′s Tony Thomas earlier this summer.

Michael Rudnick’s wife Meg is named a plaintiff in the lawsuit on behalf of their son. He is a frequent speaker at Gwinnett School Board meetings and the father of a special-needs middle schooler.

“Do not make our children mask up for a disease you can get vaccinated for,” he recently told Gwinnett County Board of Education.

In the lawsuit, attorney Mitch Skandalakis also wrote: “What is the most concerning and disheartening aspect of the abuse of power is that the School District is doing so without giving a single thought to the dangers posed by forcing a student to wear a soiled, spit-soaked, bacteria/virus infested mask right next to the nose and mouth of the student for 8 or more hours at a time.”

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The parents claim their children are suffering physically and educationally due to the mask mandate.

School leaders reinstituted the mask mandate in late July, just days before classes resumed. Administrators cited rising COVID-19 cases in the area.

The mandate requires all nearly 200,000 students and staff in the district to wear masks anytime they are in school buildings or on busses.

Not all parents oppose the mandate.

Ashley Suter has two asthmatic children in the district.

“It’s not only helping my family but it’s helping other families,” she told Thomas.

Lindsey Acciarito told the school board about her recent battle with COVID.

“I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be alive. I hope we will keep it in place until children can be vaccinated,” Acciarito said.

When Thomas asked the school board for comment about the lawsuit, a spokeswoman emailed him back, saying:

“The school district will defend its authority and obligation to follow public health guidance to protect our students and staff.”

The lawsuit also points out that Superintendent Calvin Watts and other leaders recently attended a Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce event without masks. Hundreds of people attended the event.

District leaders say they were following the rules of the event location at the time.

“The School District is not taking this matter seriously by ensuring that all of its teachers, staff, administration, and their spouses/household family members, wear masks outside of school to prevent their risk of contracting COVID-19 and bringing the infection into the schools,” Skandalakis wrote in the lawsuit.

So far, there is no hearing scheduled on the injunction request. Two Gwinnett County Judges have recused themselves from the lawsuit. They did not give a reason.

Late Wednesday, the case was assigned to a third Judge in as many days.

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