Student arrested for mask violation sues state, schools
CASPER — A Laramie High School student who was arrested for trespassing after refusing to comply with the school’s mask mandate is suing the governor, public health officials and six local school districts in an effort to overturn executive and public health orders related to COVID-19.
Grace Smith and her father, Andy, are joined in the federal suit by the guardians of 17 other Wyoming students ranging in age from 4 to 17 years old. The initial complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for Wyoming.
The suit alleges that Gov. Mark Gordon did not have legal authority to issue executive orders in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, since the virus did not pose a significant threat to human life.
The plaintiffs are also asking the court to rule that orders from local or state health departments and policies enacted by school districts were arbitrary and unfounded in scientific fact.
Along with Gordon, the suit names State Health Officer Alexia Harrist, the Wyoming Department of Health and its interim director, Stefan Johansson, and school districts in Sheridan, Albany, Laramie, Goshen, Sweetwater and Uinta counties.
Statements from nine parents with students in those districts testify to the negative effects mask-wearing has had on their children, from persistent headaches to anxiety attacks.
Many said that their children had been bullied and harassed at school — by both students and staff — for refusing to wear a mask. Some said they had been repeatedly denied exemptions, or if granted, they were not taken seriously by staff, who continued to ask the students to mask up.
Several parents also described school boards limiting public comment periods and passing mask mandates despite parents’ objections.
Smith made national headlines in October for being arrested and trespassed from Laramie High School after violating her third suspension and continuing to refuse to wear a mask on campus.
She was issued two $500 citations for trespassing, the suit states. The Albany County attorney’s office said on Thursday that one of those citations has been dismissed.
Citations and supplemental evidence provided by the plaintiff’s counsel include publications from the Ron Paul Institute, Breitbart News, blogs including NoMoreFakeNews.com and Off-Guardian.org, a news and opinion site run by former Ron Paul staffer Lew Rockwell, and a reference to “sheeple” and the Tom Cruise film “Minority Report.”
Another website, ZeroHedge.com, cited in the lawsuit’s assertion that PCR tests have “fatal flaws” that negate their results, says on its disclaimer page that it publishes paid “favorable information” for publicly traded companies and does not “verify or confirm any portion of the Information.”
The lawsuit calls for a jury trial to decide its claims of fraud against the governor and other officials. It also asks for an injunction against any mandates or policies related to masking, social distancing, testing or quarantines statewide.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Buffalo lawyer Nick Beduhn, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Beduhn sued the governor and health officials in March in an effort to stop all state COVID-19 orders and restrictions. The suit was dismissed two months later by a judge in Johnson County.
In 2017, the Wyoming Supreme Court issued two orders suspending Beduhn from practicing law for a total of two and a half years. The Wyoming State Bar said Beduhn violated his professional duties of “competence, diligence, and maintaining communication with clients.”