Parents file lawsuits over COVID-19 mask mandates
Parents are filing lawsuits over COVID-19 mask mandates in schools. They claim that masks are harmful to the children and that this is an overreach by the government. Parents are outraged and feel that the covers also cause significant psychological harm (Reilly, 2021).
In Tennessee, “a group of parents sued the Williamson County School Board of Education in U.S. District Court on Sept. 22 over the district’s mask mandate, raising doubts about the effectiveness of masks and alleging that district leader is “engaging in what amounts to a whole school clinical experimental trial” (Reilly, 2021). The Governor of Tennessee Bill Lee signed an order to allow parents to opt out. In Pennsylvania, lawsuits were filed based on psychological problems and fear of interference with breathing. They also cited religious objections that it creates a “prison-like atmosphere” (Reilly, 2021).
In South Carolina, parents of disabled children filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the ban on mandates is discriminatory and is putting children at risk with medical conditions (Reilly, 2021). Because the federal district judge blocked the ban, the U.S. Justice Department filed a statement of interest and support (Reilly, 2021).
The CDC says everyone must wear masks because of substantial health risks. Parents’ rights do not trump public schools’ ability to keep students safe (Reilly, 2021). Disabled students with medical conditions have the right to equal access to education, not having a mask, they cannot safely attend school. This article brings to light the outrage of masks and how students are the victims of COVID-19; however, the focus is on the students who are disabled, how they have rights and are being and considered an afterthought. Are disabled students voiceless during the COVID-19 crisis? Are their parents so fed up that they have finally had enough?
The mask mandates are so polarized, and people are so passionate on one side, but what about the disabled students? What about those students who look forward to school and need school for not only learning but needed interaction? It is all they have in some cases, but they have medical conditions where they cannot take a chance, and they need to have a mask mandate in place, which serves as the voice for these students. Why should they have to suffer because of all the confusing narrative? We are all affected by Covid 19. However, these parents of disabled children’s sufferings are unique. Parents are finally taking it to the next level by taking legal action.
This news event article is an excellent example of the Situational Crisis Communication Theory. The SCCT framework has identified three clusters based upon attributions of crisis responsibility by crisis type: the victim, accidental, and intentional cluster (Coombs, 2007, p. 167). In this situation, everyone involved in this lawsuit is the victim. Our nation has been caught up by misinformation and indecisiveness that lawmakers are mandating.
Some parents are left with no options, which is quite upsetting. These decisions that may lead to having to keep their children at home will cause disruption of the disabled child’s life and potential economic loss for one or more parents because of the responsibility of caretaking for their child.
The Situational Crisis Communication Theory definitions in the crisis clusters highlight the crisis cues that frame and are salient in a crisis such as these (Coombs, 2007, p. 167). The crisis history suggests that this school mask mandate is now an ongoing problem for over two years. Our nation has been instructed to force mask-wearing, vaccine urgency, school shutdowns, and now back to school with strict rules in the last two years. Well, these parents are fed up! They do not have any faith in the government systems because they have damaged their reputation with confusing communication. The parents in this event are acting by suing and trying to control their and their children’s lives.
Coombs, W. (2007). Protecting organization reputations during a crisis: The development and application of situational crisis communication theory. Corporate Reputation Review, 10(3), 163–176. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.crr.1550049
Mason, A. (2016). Media frames and crisis events: Understanding the impact on corporate reputations, responsibility attributions, and negative affect. International Journal of Business Communication, 56(3), 414–431. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488416648951
Reilly, K. (2021, October 1). School mask mandates are going to court. Time. https://time.com/6103134/parents-fight-school-mask-mandates/