An article published in The Columbus Dispatch on Sept. 15 detailed the parental uproar over Ohio Department of Health Interim Director Lance Himes’s state mandate that children wear masks in schools. Over two dozen parents have entered into a lawsuit against Himes, arguing that the mask mandate violates parental autonomy and Constitutional rights, infringes upon religious beliefs and forces children to make a political statement.
The Dispatch reported that parents also expressed concerns about the long-term psychological damage of wearing masks at school, as doing so “violates students’ privacy” by stifling “their personality, identity and public projection of self.”
Several exemptions from the mask mandate are offered, namely for students with a disability, mental health or medical condition that would be exacerbated by usage of a mask.
“Another exemption allows students to forgo face coverings if they conflict with ‘an established sincerely held religious requirement,’” according to The Dispatch, which has caused debate over whether or not the school district has the authority to discern the validity of students’ religious beliefs.
The lawsuit against Himes comes soon after the resignation of Ohio’s previous health director, Dr. Amy Acton, who quit following public harassment and backlash for pandemic restrictions that were perceived to be too strict. Dr. Joan Duwve, Acton’s replacement, resigned before officially starting the job due to worries about Acton’s harassment.
This isn’t the first denunciation of Gov. Mike DeWine’s attempt to curb infection rates of COVID-19. DeWine and Ohio’s health department were sued earlier in the pandemic over other rules and restrictions, such as in restaurants and gyms. Some of these legal battles are still pending, while in others, judges have ruled against the state.