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IPFS News Link • California

Court Ruling Means California Schools Can Violate Students' Rights When Following Public...

•, by Kristin Lang

As we near the end of the school year, a new court ruling may have some parents rethinking whether they want to enroll their children in California's public schools this fall.

Those of you living in Southern California will likely remember the case of Aidan Palicke. An academically-gifted Yorba Linda High School student and captain of the track team, Aidan was forced to take his exams outside in 40-degree weather wearing only a t-shirt. School officials singled out Aidan for wearing a formerly acceptable mesh face mask to school during the COVID era.

"I was freezing, and all of the other students were looking at me through the window," Aidan told me.

"My fingers were in so much pain from the cold that it was hard to concentrate on my exam."

Aidan said some teachers encouraged his fellow students to ridicule him for not conforming to the mid-year change in masking policy. Aidan said he was hauled into the principals' office repeatedly, removed from campus, and ultimately forced into a home-based study program against his wishes.

Aidan's family sued the Placentia Yorba Linda School District (PYLUSD) in March 2022, arguing that some PYLUSD board members colluded to change masking policy mid-year to punish "conservative" students or students whose parents were vocal in opposing various COVID measures at the school.

According to evidence presented in court, confusion ensued across the school district as teachers and school officials selectively enforced this policy, allegedly allowing favored students to wear any mask, or no mask at all. Some school board members testified that they wanted to stop the chaos the new masking policy was creating but were blocked from voting on it by other members of the school board.

"After two years of litigation, an Orange County Superior Court judge who had been ruling in favor of the Palicke family and against dismissal suddenly reversed course and ruled that school officials were immune from liability for their admittedly illegal and abusive actions to students during the COVID era—setting a dangerous precedent," said Rita Barnett-Rose, an attorney for the Palicke family during a press conference in Orange County on May 13.