Two California-based advocacy organizations filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s top health officials over COVID-19 protocols for K-12 schools.

The groups, Let Them Breathe and Reopen California Schools, include parents of students attending public schools throughout the state. A joint statement said that they are specifically “challenging the state’s facial covering, asymptomatic testing, and close contact quarantine guidance.” In addition, they have been working in collaboration “to advocate against the State’s erroneous school closures and arbitrary operating protocols,” it continued.

The complaint was filed in San Diego County Superior Court and identifies the defendants as Gov. Newsom; Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH); and Dr. Naomi Bardach, Safe Schools for All Team Lead for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“It’s clear that CDPH has chosen to ignore the overwhelming evidence that show[s] children are at a very low risk from being infected with COVID-19, transmitting it to others, or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19,” said Jonathan Zachreson, founder of Reopen California Schools. “A return to a normal school year is crucial to the mental and physical health recovery for all students across California who have endured months of isolation and a majority of who spent last school year entirely in distance learning.”

California announced new state regulations last week prohibiting most students from entering public K-12 campuses if they do not wear face coverings while inside buildings and classrooms, regardless of vaccination status. The updated school guidance is more strict than the advice previously released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend that students who have not been fully vaccinated wear masks while in school. Still, the CDC also says that “school administrators may opt to make mask use universally required (i.e., required regardless of vaccination status) in the school” based on an individual community’s needs.

The vaccines have not been approved for children under the age of 12.

“CDPH states that despite CDC recommendations, they will require masks for all students in order to treat them the same,” said Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe. “Of course it’s true that all children deserve equity and should not be singled out based on vaccination status. However, this should be accomplished by allowing all children to unmask and share their smiles.”

McKeeman went on to describe California’s restrictions as “unnecessary and damaging,” adding that they “are harming students.”

“Dr. Ghaly’s claim that masking does not interfere with in-person education is faulty in that facial cues, social skills, and comfort are just a few of the essential components of education that masking excludes,” she continued.

Together, Let Them Breathe and Reopen California Schools say they have raised almost $100,000 to challenge the state’s COVID-19 protocols.

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