Federal Lawsuit Filed Over Clark County School District Face Mask Mandate

On Thursday, August 12, 2021, a civil rights complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court, District of Nevada, against Nevada Governor Stephen F. Sisolak, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Darnell Ford, and the Clark County School District. The complaint seeks class action certification for alleged civil rights violations against parents and children in the Clark County School District related to Governor Sisolak’s recent mandate that all students and staff in the Clark County School District wear a face mask while attending school.

The Clark County School District in Nevada is the fifth largest public school system in the country and includes more than 300,000 students. The mask mandate was announced on July 27, 2021. The mandate requires that all students and staff wear face masks while inside school buildings and facilities and while riding Clark County School District buses, unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit such use. The mandate cites “current high transmission rates of COVID-19” and aligns with recommendations from the CDC, the Southern Nevada Health District, and the Governor’s Directives.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Monica Branch-Noto and Tiffany Paulson, who bring the suit on behalf of their minor children. The lawsuit was filed for the plaintiffs by attorneys Sigal Chattah and Joseph S. Gilbert. Earlier this year, Chattah announced her campaign to run as a Republican for Nevada Attorney General in 2022. Gilbert previously announced a Republican bid for governor in 2022.

The complaint claims that the defendants seek to “curb Plaintiffs’ civil rights and liberties by ordering draconian measures and engaging in the intentional infliction of emotional distress of school children and their parents.” The complaint further states that, in the history of the State of Nevada, no governor has ever declared an emergency for 18 months under Nevada Revised Statutes (“NRS”) 414.040. As such, by “issuing arbitrary and capricious mandates such as [the mask mandate for the Clark County School District],” the complaint states that Governor Sisolak “maintains his tyrannical Emergency Powers under NRS 414.060.” The complaint continues on to paint the defendants’ actions as “grossly negligent, willful misconduct and in bad faith,” in contradiction to NRS 414.110, which “specifically precludes immunity for such actions that are based on willful misconduct, gross negligence, or bad faith.” The complaint cites multiple statistics to claim that Governor Sisolak’s directives are “unsubstantiated by concrete empirical evidence to merit same.”

The lawsuit seeks in relief a declaratory judgment, to set aside and hold unlawful Governor Sisolak’s orders and emergency directives, a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction, and monetary damages. The complaint brings forth six causes of action: (1) Violation of the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988; (2) violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988; (3) violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) violation of the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988; and (6) negligence.

Additional Reading

Federal lawsuit filed against Las Vegas school mask mandate, ABC News (August 13, 2021)

Branch-Noto et al v. Sisolak et al (Case No. 2:2021cv01507)

Complaint in Branch-Noto et al v. Sisolak et al

Updated Mask and Health Guidance for 2021-22 School Year, Clark County School District (July 27, 2021)

2020 Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 414 – Emergency Management

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