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Judge Upholds Mask Requirement in Connecticut Schools

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A judge has upheld Connecticut's requirement that children wear masks in schools, rejecting a challenge by some parents who said mask wearing can be harmful and education officials exceeded their authority.

The ruling released Monday affirms the legitimacy of mask requirements in schools this academic year but does not address any guidance on masks that may be issued for the next school year.

The state Department of Education has not yet decided whether to require mask in schools for the 2021-2022 year. Officials said they will be monitoring updated guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in making that determination.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher in Hartford upheld Gov. Ned Lamont’s coronavirus-related emergency orders that granted the state Department of Education authority to require masks. Moukawsher cited decisions made earlier this year by the legislature and by the state Supreme Court upholding the governor’s right under the state constitution to issue emergency orders in response to COVID-19.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in August by the CT Freedom Alliance and several parents and their children that challenged the mask requirement.

Brian Festa, co-founder of the CT Freedom Alliance, said his group is planning to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

“The plaintiffs remain steadfast in their position that the school mask mandate was not only an unconstitutional overreach of executive authority, but that it was — and continues to be — far more of a threat to children’s health than the coronavirus,” Festa said in a statement.

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The alliance argued masks can cause distress for students and claimed they are not useful despite assurances from the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts that masks help prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Moukawsher, however, said in a previous decision that he believed Lamont, a Democrat, likely exceeded his authority when he extended his executive orders related to the coronavirus multiple times without legislative approval. Lamont issued the first orders in March 2020, and Moukawsher said state law required legislative approval to extend them after six months.

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