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Portage parents threaten to sue unless Tuesday's student mask mandate is lifted
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Portage parents threaten to sue unless Tuesday's student mask mandate is lifted

Portage Township Schools masks

The parents of two students at Portage Township Schools have put the district on notice of their intention to sue unless the student COVID-19 mask requirement that took effect Tuesday is immediately rescinded.

PORTAGE — The parents of two families of students at Portage Township Schools have put the district on notice of their intention to sue unless the student COVID-19 mask requirement that took effect Tuesday is rescinded.

"I am letting you know right now, my child will not be wearing a mask, will not be forced to wear one because I DO NOT CONSENT nor did a public open discussion occur," according to the Tort Claim notices from Brad and Laura Kellett, and Karl and Jacklyn Greer.

"School districts simply don't have authority to issue laws of general applicability concerning health issues such as this," the parents say. "We have NOT forfeited any explicit right that any private or federal agency have RIGHTS over our dominion and that of our children and therefore those rights are powers reserved to the people."

Ride along with Officer Jimmy Weller as he patrols the region's border of Lake Michigan as part of the Lake County Sheriff's Marine Unit. Video by Connor Burge. 

The schools implemented the mask requirement in order to comply with the call from parents to stick with in-school learning as opposed to a virtual approach, district attorney Ken Elwood said Tuesday.

"That is our primary motivating factor," he said.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order last week saying if masks are mandated and the requirement is enforced, then quarantines are not required in the wake of exposure to an infected person unless symptoms develop, Elwood said. Without the requirement, more students could be out of the classroom and quarantined.

The nearby Crown Point Community School Corporation posted Thursday that 1,092 staff and students had been quarantined since the start of the school year. The district then implemented its own mask mandate and modified its quarantine policy to follow the new executive order in a move expected to bring hundreds of students back to the classroom immediately.

Portage Township Schools Superintendent Amanda Alaniz said in a Friday letter to parents, "Our staff members are working diligently to mitigate the academic and social/emotional effects of this pandemic; having our students in school with their teachers and peers is going to be paramount to their success."

Over 6,300 new COVID cases reported among Hoosier students. Here's a closer look at Region districts

The complaining parents say their lawsuits will be seeking damages for "unauthorized restrictions of liberty, identifying a minor as a potential public health risk with no jurisdiction (or evidence)" and imposing dress codes that don't align with existing regulations.

The parents further claim the school board cannot enact the requirement on its own without a public meeting.

"You are not an authority and you will either RESCIND your declaration or we will take this matter to the HIGHEST of courts while suing EACH and everyone of you," the Tort Claims say.

If the mandate is not rescinded by the end of the business day Tuesday, the parents say they will seek a temporary restraining order this week.

The parents say they forwarded copies of their letters to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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