Daily Bread for 10.12.21: Parent of sick student sues after Waukesha School District ends many pandemic mitigation efforts

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 69.  Sunrise is 7:06 AM and sunset 6:16 PM for 11h 10m 01s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 42.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

 Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 4:30 PM, and the city’s Public Works Committee meets at 6 PM. 

 On this day in 1960, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pounds his shoe on a desk at the United Nations to protest a Philippine assertion.

 Alec Johnson reports The Waukesha School district ended many of its pandemic mitigation efforts. Then her son got sick. Now, she’s suing:

Attorney Frederick Melms filed the lawsuit on Oct. 5 in the U.S. Eastern District of Wisconsin on behalf of Shannon Jensen and other parents and K-12 Waukesha School District students.

The lawsuit is the latest instance of local parent frustration with how area school boards have responded to the pandemic and yet another example of how school board meetings have increasingly become ground zero in politics.

The lawsuit, which is being funded by the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC and argues for class-action status, is seeking an injunction ordering the district to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines.

According to the lawsuit:

The Waukesha School Board on May 12 removed the mask requirement and many other COVID-19 mitigation measures that were in place for most of the 2020-21 school year. Despite that decision, Jensen’s son, a student at Rose Glen Elementary School, and his two younger brothers wore masks to school while many of their classmates did not. 

One of Jensen’s oldest son’s classmates came to school with COVID-19 symptoms on Sept.16-17 before being sent home. Jensen’s oldest son was seated next to the sick classmate both days and his sick classmate did not wear a mask. On Sept. 19, Jensen’s oldest son developed symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19. Jensen then had all her sons quarantine at home. The younger two boys would later test positive for COVID-19 as well, and all of them missed school and other extracurricular activities as a result. 

In a statement provided in the lawsuit, Jensen said she got delayed notifications from the district informing her that children in her oldest son’s class tested positive for the virus and later learned through another parent with a child in her oldest son’s class that four children had tested positive. She also learned the district had no thresholds for when the class would be quarantined and that no contact tracing was being done. Instead the district was “just blanket informing parents when a child in the school had tested positive, usually several days earlier.”

Lawsuits require that plaintiffs, individually or as a class, have been somehow injured (as defined by law).

So there are choices to be made, and ways to lessen the chance of becoming a defendant in lawsuit. The strongest way, for students and for school districts, is to have effective protocols diligently applied. These mitigation efforts may not always work, but they can both reduce illness and protect against a finding of liability.

By contrast, there is also a weak way to prevent injury and protect against liability: to ignore mitigation, to insist falsely that a district has mitigation protocols when it does not, and to insist unconvincingly that the district has no school spread

People and institutions choose freely, sometimes well, sometimes poorly. 

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