Lawsuit filed against a second Wisconsin school district over COVID-19 protocols
MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) - A federal lawsuit has been filed against a second Wisconsin school board over the school district’s COVID-19 protocols.
The civil lawsuit filed Monday by Gina Kildahl in the Western District of Wisconsin U.S. District Court seeks an injunction that would order the Fall Creek School District to comply with Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines for K-12 schools.
According to the lawsuit, the Board of Education for the Fall Creek School District voted to end many of their COVID-19 mitigation policies, including a mask requirement, for the 2021-2022 school year. Two of Kildahl’s son’s classmates at Fall Creek Elementary School tested positive for COVID-19 in the span of five days, on Sept. 20 and Sept. 24, with one of the classmates not wearing a mask to school. Kildahl’s son, who wore a mask to school, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 27, and missed two weeks of school while in quarantine.
Kildahl’s lawsuit states the district violated her son’s equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, writing that the Fall Creek School District and the Board of Education’s “reckless refusal to implement reasonable COVID-19 measures” was the cause of Kildahl’s son’s COVID-19 infection, as well as other COVID-19 cases in the school district among those who attended classes in-person and then spread COVID-19 throughout the community.
The lawsuit is nearly identical to one filed Oct. 5 by a parent whose child contracted COVID-19 and was attending school in the Waukesha School District in southeastern Wisconsin. That lawsuit was filed with the Eastern District of Wisconsin U.S. District Court.
Kirk Bangstad, owner of the Minocqua Brewing Company and whose Super PAC, the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC, is funding the lawsuit, wrote in a Facebook post Sunday that the Super PAC plans on suing every school board in Wisconsin that did not follow CDC COVID-19 guidelines for K-12 school districts, “This lawsuit is a template,” Bangstad said.
He said Waukesha was the first school district to be sued “because we met the plaintiffs in Waukesha first. It’s really as simple as that.”
The lawsuits’ intended outcome is to require school districts and school boards to put in consistent COVID-19 mitigation protocols that follow CDC guidance, such as requirements for face coverings for everyone inside of K-12 buildings, contact tracing and social distancing.
The lawsuit compares Fall Creek’s school to a “COVID-19 snake pit,” and Bangstad said that while the virus probably won’t kill children because they are young and healthy, sick children can still bring the virus home.
“They are now becoming vectors through which this delta variant will explode in communities,” Bangstad said. “It’s kind of like this manufacturing plant, you know, putting out carcinogens in the air and giving people in the community cancer.”
Fall Creek School District Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo said as of Monday evening, the district was not aware of a federal lawsuit being filed against them and offered no other comment.
In a July briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the CDC is recommending everyone in a K-12 school wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, calling for children to return to full-time, in-person learning with “proper prevention strategies in place.” The guidance issued by the CDC also recommended masks indoors in places where there is substantial or high COVID-19 activity, which includes all of Wisconsin as of Oct. 11. When the CDC issued the guidance, the agency said that the reason K-12 buildings are recommended to follow the measures is because people ages 11 and under are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccination at this time. Masks weren’t mandated in schools by the CDC, but masks are still required on public transportation, including school buses. Other recommended measures include sanitizing, proper handwashing and ventilation.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in August also recommended school districts encourage face coverings, physical distancing and COVID-19 mitigation measures for the 2021-22 school year. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also supported the CDC’s recommendations for mitigation of the spread of COVID-19, stating that vaccination and mask guidance are the best ways for the agency to respond to a growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Wisconsin.
CDC data dashboards are available on the CDC data tracker website. The DHS also has a COVID-19 data dashboard for Wisconsin on its website.
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