Public School Masking Lawsuit Heard in Missoula District Court
Missoula District Court Judge Jason Marks heard arguments on Wednesday morning in the case of Stand Up Montana vs. Missoula County Public Schools on the matter of mandatory masking of students as a possible violation of the parents’ Constitutional rights.
Appearing for the plaintiffs was Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades who made the following opening statement.
“Your Honor, the Montana Supreme Court has held in the case of state vs. Bassett, quote, ‘in Montana, we jealously guard, our broad right of privacy’, unquote,” said Rhoades. “What that means in four words is ‘My body, My choice’. In this case, we have a narrow issue and that narrow issue is simply can schools require or force students to wear masks against the medical judgment of their parents as a condition of accessing their constitutional right to a public education.”
Rhoades then referenced the Armstrong case that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the right of privacy.
“It says quote, ‘we hold that the personal autonomy component of the right of privacy broadly guarantees each individual, the right to make medical judgments affecting her or his bodily integrity and health, in partnership with chosen health care providers, free from the interference of the government’,” he said.
Appearing for the defendants was Elizabeth Kaleva, also of Missoula, who opened by stating that the lawsuit itself was presented much too late to be considered by the court.
“The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo,” began Kaleva. “And as you will hear today, and as you read in our briefs, the status quo is masking in all three of these school districts. The last peaceable condition for these schools was the end of the 2021 school year in which masks were required. At that time school districts independently of any state or county order were requiring all individuals to wear masks on school property.”
Kaleva continued her argument before Judge Marks.
“It wasn't until this fall, right before the prior school started, that plaintiffs at that point asserted their right to privacy indicating that they should not be required to wear masks in a public school,” she said. “But it's abundantly clear your honor to the last peaceable condition, because none of the plaintiffs raised complaints at the time the mask requirement was put into place absent any state or county order, was the end of the school year and there were no complaints filed. So the status quo for all of these school districts is wearing masks.”
After over 90 minutes of arguments, Judge Marks said he would take the matter under advisement and issue a ruling ‘in the next few days’.
The school districts asked Judge Marks to set a trial date long past the end of the school year, to which he refused, stating that the school districts could then claim the issue was moot, due to the school year being over. Instead, Judge Marks said a trial date will be set in April, to which both sides were agreeable.