As the pandemic continues to rage in schools across the country, politicization of mask wearing is impeding protection of children’s health in schools and the right of some children to attend school in person.

Over 5 million kids have contracted COVID-19 and more than 849,000 have been hospitalized in the U.S. Between the middle of August and early September, the nearly three weeks following the start of school, 65,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in children. More children died during each of these weeks than in any previous week of the pandemic. 

The science is settled—universal mask requirements save lives. Some lawmakers are ignoring this science and are undercutting the effectiveness of universal mask policies and risking the health, lives, and education of students.

  • In Tennessee, we have filed briefs opposing Governor Lee’s Executive Order that allows parents to opt their children out of masking, overriding local requirements for universal masking in schools. This risks the health of all students and makes it harder for students with disabilities to safely attend school in person.
  • In Arizona, we filed a brief opposing Governor Ducey’s withholding of grants from schools that have issued a mask mandate, and his overriding of local counties’ wishes and efforts to protect their communities from the spread of COVID-19.
  • What we have seen in Tennessee and Arizona is also going on in states such as Texas and Florida, where we are monitoring cases.

Elsewhere, the rights of minors capable of informed consent to obtain safe and effective vaccines are under attack in the courts.

  • In Washington D.C., on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and other medical societies, we’ve filed briefs opposing the efforts of special interests that are seeking to use the courts to block the Minor Consent Act, which provides capable minors the ability to make decisions to receive health care and vaccinations.

Democracy Forward is elevating the voice of science and medical expertise in the courts to protect children’s health. We are proud to represent the nation’s leading medical experts in children’s safety and health concerns that arise throughout the country.

August 6

Brief filed in D.C. District Court Urges Court to Uphold the Minor’s Right to Consent to Medical Care

On behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Washington, D.C. chapter of the AAP, the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine, Democracy Forward filed an amicus brief in support of the District of Columbia’s Minor Consent Act, urging the court to dismiss the challenge and uphold the Minor Consent Act.

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August 12, 2021

We filed an additional brief in a related case.

In a related case, anti-vaccine group Children's Health Defense and religious liberty group Parental Rights Foundation, also sought to strike down this important public health law. On behalf of these leading medical groups, Democracy Forward filed a second brief in support of the act.

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September 7, 2021

In Tennessee we filed a brief on behalf of the TNAAP in support of a legal challenge to Gov. Lee’s Executive Order on masking policies that would hurt children with disabilities.

On behalf of the TN Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatrics, we filed a brief in support of a legal challenge to TN Gov. Lee’s Executive Order which turns universal masking policies into mere requirements that would hurt children with disabilities.

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September 10, 2021

We filed a brief on behalf of the Arizona Chapter of AAP in support of the legal challenge in Shelby County TN to Gov. Ducey’s executive order that prohibits universal mask mandate in schools.

The amicus brief supports the long and credible work of the AAP and the guidance provided by the Arizona chapter, a state where COVID-19 infections are amongst the highest in the country. The brief explains that while parents have a right to make many decisions concerning the education of their children, they do not have the right to demand access to schools in a way that places the lives and health of other children in danger.

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September 14

In Knox County, TN we filed a brief on behalf of the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in support of a second legal challenge to Gov. Lee’s Executive Order.

With over 244,366 cumulative child cases of COVID-19, Tennessee has the highest rate of child cases of COVID-19 of any state in the nation.These numbers skyrocketed in the first few weeks following the start of the school year.

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September 17

An important victory for science, the law, and children.

A federal court in Tennessee blocked Governor Lee's executive order that undermined school mask rules. The court followed our clients’ - AAP + TNAAP - expertise and affirmed that Shelby County schools should be able to ensure a safe learning environment without being undermined by the Governor.

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September 24

A win in Tennessee for science, the law, and children.

In a win for science, the law, and children, a federal judge in TN enjoined the Knox County Board of Education from enforcing its September 1, 2021 vote against a mask mandate in Knox County Schools and ordered it to enforce-with immediate effect-a universal mask policy.

September 27

Supporting science and protecting kids' health in Gwinnett County, GA.

On behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics we filed a brief in Gwinnett County, GA to urge the court not “to prevent Gwinnett County from protecting its students and community.” The brief read in part, “Blocking Gwinnett County’s policy would put parents to an untenable choice: either send children to schools where they have a high risk of contracting COVID-19, or keep them home from school with the attendant harm to their social, emotional, and educational development.”

September 27

Court strikes down AZ laws that prevent communities from protecting kids in school.

The Court struck down the laws, ruling the laws to be "unconstitutional" and therefore "void." Just days before, the CDC released data that schools in two AZ counties without a mask requirement were 3.5 times more likely to have a #COVID19 outbreak than schools requiring masks.

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September 28

Leading medical experts urge court to block Iowa's law banning universal masking in schools.

Children with special health needs are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. This brief, filed on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Arc of Iowa v. Reynolds, makes clear that: “Children with certain underlying conditions who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to the hospital or intensive care unit.” The brief notes that: ​“The science is clear: universal mask policies in schools protect all children, particularly the medically vulnerable.”

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September 29

Leading medical experts urge court to block Gov. Abbott's Executive Order prohibiting universal masking in schools.

On behalf of leading medical experts, Texas Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, we filed a brief urging a court in Texas to block Gov. Abbott's Executive Order prohibiting universal masking in schools. Gov. Abbott’s action puts all students at risk.

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October 1

A new brief in SC urges the court to deny the state's efforts to put kids’ health at risk.

Today we filed a brief on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics and its South Carolina Chapter. Leading medical experts informed the court that “The State’s request … suggests that school mask requirements are a matter of scientific debate. They are not.”

October 1

Pediatricians file new brief urging court to block Gov. Lee’s mask opt-out in Williamson County TN schools.

In a new filing, the AAP and TNAAP tell the court, urging the court to block Gov. Lee's policy, "On one side of the scale is an unprecedented pandemic that has killed hundreds of children and put thousands more in the hospital, and which is increasing in severity and transmissibility. On the other is an unfounded fear of unspecified harm, and a purported right to refuse basic precautions and thereby expose both the maskless children and those around them to that pandemic."

Samara Spence

Senior Counsel

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions, abuses of power, and threats to democracy on behalf of those who are harmed.

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Jeffrey Dubner

Managing Senior Counsel

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions, abuses of power, and threats to democracy on behalf of those who are harmed.

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