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B.C. court rejects parents' attempt to force masks on school children

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
October 14, 2020 - 4:30 PM

Two Lower Mainland parents have lost in their effort to stop schools from re-opening without mandatory mask policies in place.

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster filed for an injunction in August to stop the schools from re-opening without a mandatory mask or face-covering policy.

Or, they argued, if they couldn’t stop the schools from re-opening in September, a mandatory mask policy should be forced on the schools.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bill Basran turned them down on all counts.

Shuster has two children, one in elementary school and one in high school in Vancouver. He has underlying health conditions that put him at increased risk of harm from COVID-19 and his wife is immunocompromised because she has cancer.

They prefer that their children attend school in person.

Trest also has underlying health conditions and his son has asthma but he wants his son to attend a Surrey school in person so he can participate in a gifted program.

The judge ruled that the schools offered remote learning options and they are not required to provide in-school teaching under the conditions the litigants insisted upon.

He also went into some detail about how Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Ministries of Health and Education went about making their decisions to re-open schools and the role masks play in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“The evidence shows that public health officials thoughtfully and comprehensively considered the use of masks in schools,” Justice Basran wrote. “They considered the research and current scientific information regarding the use of masks and concluded that some masking in schools was required, but a widespread mandatory masking policy is not necessary at this time.

“This is because the evidence shows that in current circumstances, such a policy may be counterproductive because it could detract from the effectiveness of more effective means of limiting transmission, such as staying at home when sick, proper hand hygiene, and physical distancing. This is a reasonable and rational approach to the use of masks in schools.

“On the balance of convenience, in my view, the public interest is best served by continuing to rely on the PHO, her team of experts, and the Minister of Health to guide British Columbia's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

He also wrote on the impacts of school closures on students and families.

“The evidence shows that prolonged school absences have detrimental effects on both children and families, with disproportionate impacts on families who may already be experiencing social and health inequities. Youth may be particularly susceptible to adverse effects on stress levels, mental health, and connectedness, with school closures potentially resulting in increased loneliness correlated with anxiety, depression, and declining mental health."

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