Editorial: Mask-wearing in schools for greater public good

A teacher puts on a child's mask upon his arrival at Stark Elementary School on Sept. 16 in Stamford.

The public has the right to sue the government for actions they may consider inappropriate. That doesn’t mean it is always a good idea.

The lawsuit brought by four Connecticut mothers against the requirement that children wear masks while in public school pits what they say is a right to an education against general public health.

The protection of public health cannot be ignored.

The families — from Manchester, East Lyme, Marlborough and Farmington with 10 children from ages 5 to 15 — say in the suit they oppose the state Department of Education requirement that children “wear face coverings, masks, face shields, or any other attire or apparatus on their persons in order to receive their fundamental right to an education.”

The requirement, following federal health guidelines, is for the safety of teachers, other students, and family members during the coronavirus epidemic. Though cumbersome and perhaps uncomfortable, masks are a prudent way to try to thwart the spread of the contagion.

However, the lawsuit filed through the Ridgefield-based CT Freedom Alliance, which petitioned earlier to re-open the region, charges that wearing masks all day is “dangerous and damaging to the Children’s health, safety and emotional well-being.”

This week a Superior Court judge ruled that two doctors who the group wanted to testify about psychological and physical damage to children were unqualified. One of them, a New York psychiatrist, was rejected by the judge as an expert because he believes COVID-19 is a hoax, vaccines are poison and viruses do not exist.

“The court will not accept as an expert advisor to it on a matter of life and death a man who defies science so firmly established as beyond rational dispute,” Judge Thomas Moukawsher said. The other, an ophthalmologist from Oklahoma who markets vitamin sales as an alternative to masks, lacks the appropriate professional background, the judge said.

Further, the lawsuit charges that masks do not “prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.” Scientific evidence and federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are to the contrary.

Connecticut parents have options. If they don’t want their children to wear masks in school, then they can seek individual exemptions in the district or the students can learn remotely from home. But the lawsuit maintains distance learning “does not provide children with a constitutionally adequate education.”

Connecticut has a low positivity rate of coronavirus infection, though it is rising slightly, because most take seriously the need to wear masks, observe social distancing and follow other measures. It makes little sense to expose entire schools — and families — because a few parents find masks too uncomfortable for their children.

On a related note, we find it troubling that one of the lawyers representing the families holds state office. Craig Fishbein is a two-term Republican state representative for the 90th District, which covers part of Wallingford and Cheshire. Though legal, it is questionable for an elected official to be suing the state he helps govern.

Connecticut Media Group