Parents in Fulton County, Georgia, are appealing their lawsuit against the county’s school board as they seek to ban mask mandates from becoming public policy entirely.
Speaking exclusively with Breitbart News, both the primary plaintiff, Christy McCranie, and an adviser on the case, Philip Holloway, say they intend to charge forward with an appeal after their request for an injunction was denied by Hon. Eric K. Dunaway of the county’s superior court. McCranie said the plaintiff’s team is currently raising money in order to gear up for the appeal.
“This case is about the Fulton County school system denying an education to these plaintiff children in direct violation of the state constitution,” Holloway explained to Breitbart News, continuing, “they failed to take into consideration any of the known harms to children associated with mask-wearing all day in class.”
“In Georgia, you have a state constitutional right to a free public education,” Holloway, who is an attorney but not counsel on this case, said. “And if you’re having the school system deny that right because they’re forcing you to sit in the classroom, wearing a mask, which causes you all these harms — just pick whichever harm you want from any of the affidavits — if you’re that student who’s experiencing these harms, and you’re not able to get the education as a result, then the district is denying you your state constitutional rights.”
While the request for an injunction was denied, Holloway told Breitbart News that “We were prepared to lose. We sort of went into this with the mindset that this was always going to wind up in the court of appeals or probably, honestly, at the state supreme court, because whichever side had lost, the other one was going to appeal.”
Holloway also told Breitbart News that the goal of the lawsuit is not to prove the efficacy of masks, per se, but rather “the point of the lawsuit is that masks cause harm.”
“The thing about masks is, you know, whatever your feelings might be … about whether they are effective or not with respect to any kind of virus transmission, the point is: they are not a benign intervention,” Holloway said. “There are downsides to masks.”
— Philip Holloway ⚖️ ✈️ 😁 (@PhilHollowayEsq) October 12, 2021
Indeed, providing an affidavit for the plaintiffs, clinical psychologist Ashley Loyd said that “In my practice and the larger community, the number of cases of children with the following conditions has increased: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-injurious behaviors, suicide attempts, drug use, alcohol abuse, physical/sexual/emotional abuse and neglect.”
“At no point in time, apparently, has the school district even considered the harms to children,” Holloway explained. “So, it’s almost like if they had acknowledged that, they’d have to say, ‘Well, okay, we’re willing to harm children up to this point, but not beyond this point.’ So, where do you draw the line? … It’s a really slippery slope. And, quite frankly, I can understand why the superintendent doesn’t want to have that discussion, because if you’re willing to harm children, then the next question is, to what extent are you willing to harm children? How far are you willing to go?”
Harm to children is exactly what is at the root of this case and why McCranie decided to take action.
Telling Breitbart News how she came to sue the school board, McCranie said, “I ended up getting involved because I was simply willing to stand up at a rally of a bunch of parents and say, ‘Well, if we want to get something going, legally … I am happy to spearhead that.’ So, I just offered myself. … I’m the mom of five, so you just figure out how to get things done. And so, I stood up and said, ‘I am willing to do that.’”
“And our rights are being stripped away slowly on so many different levels,” she continued. “This is a local issue that I have standing to try and do something about. So, I wanted to protect my kids’ health, and I wanted to protect my kids’ rights and my rights.”
McCranie told Breitbart News that this was her children’s first year in the Fulton County public school system, as she had sent all of her five children to a private Christian school, until they “hired a diversity officer” who brought in Critical Race Theory (CRT).
“So they were connecting the Bible with CRT, and that was the line for me,” she said. “I graduated three kids from that Christian school, but I pulled the last two and put them in public school … I knew there would be CRT there, but at least they wouldn’t be connecting it with God.”
McCranie, who currently has two children in the Fulton County school system, explained that part of the reason she is suing the school board is the physical, psychological, and social harm put on her and other plaintiffs’ children that, as doctors in the case have attested, can have a long-lasting impact.
“Masks are definitely making it harder to make friends,” McCranie said, explaining that she would have homeschooled her children as she had during the height of the pandemic, but decided not to as she believed sending them to public school might provide better social benefits. She told Breitbart News that her children are asking questions like “‘What is this kid I’m just getting to know? What’s he saying? What’s the look on his face? Is that sarcasm? I don’t know.’”
Loyd said in her affidavit that “the mask mandates have negatively reinforced the notion that the world is not safe.” Furthermore, she said, “[c]overing a child’s face mutes … nonverbal forms of communication and can result in robotic and emotionless interactions, anxiety, depression, as well as a plethora of other mental health issues.”
“A part of our society has forgotten to account for the unintended consequences of the shutdowns and mask for school-age children,” Loyd stated. “Rather society is focused solely on physical health aspects rather than the full health of the child including mental health.”
But McCranie said her children are suffering academically as well. According to McCranie, teachers at her children’s schools are barring the students from asking them to repeat something if they could not understand it due to the mask muffling their voices.
“The problem is, on top of that, they don’t want you to say ‘What? What? What?’ all the time [or] ‘Wait, can you repeat that?’” she explained. “So, one of our biggest issues that I’ve seen in the grades going down is that my kids don’t know what they’re getting wrong. They think they’re hearing what the teacher is saying, but they’re getting it wrong because it’s muffled through her mask. … When you think you understood what she said, and you go home, and you memorize the information, and what you wrote down is wrong because you didn’t hear it right and you weren’t allowed to ask, you’re not going to do well.”
McCranie also told Breitbart News that her children can see that adults are being “inconsistent and illogical,” which in turn is “shaking their foundation.”
“I mean, my kids think adults are ridiculous, because they cannot make up their minds,” she explained. “‘Are the masks working or are they not working? If they’re working, why don’t I have to wear one when I play basketball? If they’re not working, why do I have to wear one at all? Why are college stadiums, why was the [Atlanta] Braves stadium packed, including Governor Kemp, mask free, but I’ve got to wear one to school?’ They see that what the adults are doing is inconsistent and illogical, and it’s shaking their foundation. … I think it’s why the depression and the suicide rates in teenagers are going through the roof. There’s just no sense of security, there’s no sense that anybody knows what they’re doing.”
“‘Does anybody even know how to keep me safe?’” she said the children contemplate. “So it’s not just, ‘Are they working in my best interest?’ But, ‘Does anybody even know the right thing to do? And if not, how am I supposed to know?’”
McCranie said of Dunaway’s injunction denial that “I felt like he ignored the fact that there are proven medical issues with the masks. I mean, we have doctors saying a kid shouldn’t wear a mask and principals denying their exemptions [from wearing masks].”
“[The judge] dismiss[ed] the fact that doctors are saying these kids are having trouble,” she continued. “It should be enough that I’m saying it as a parent, but they approach us like, ‘Well, you’re probably lying, we need a doctor to say that.’ So then doctors say it, and they’re still completely ignoring it.”
In the decision to deny the plaintiffs’ request, Dunaway said:
Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they will suffer an irreparable injury if the requested injunction is not granted. Despite Plaintiffs’ contention that “the Mask Mandate has caused both physical and mental health issues across all ages” and the testimony with respect to their children’s difficulties allegedly caused by mask wearing, there is no evidence to show that any alleged harm is irreparable.
Continuing further, Dunaway cites the “status quo” of “policy that has already been in place for over a year,” concluding that:
The current status quo is that the Mask Mandate has been in place since the fall of 2020. Accordingly, the Court finds that granting an injunction removing such mandate would disrupt the status quo. … In sum, “[t]he purpose for granting interlocutory injunctions is to preserve the status quo…”
In a statement to Breitbart News, the Fulton County Superintendent’s office said, “We agree with the judge’s ruling, which confirmed our legal position, and will advocate this through the legal process. In the meantime, we will maintain efforts to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic so that we may remain focused on educating our students.”
However, according to both McCranie and Holloway, the mask mandate had not been in place consistently since the fall of 2020, and had only been reinstated several days prior to school returning. Holloway explained that masks were optional during summer school.
Moreover, Holloway is not convinced of the judge’s legal argument about “status quos” being used as a basis to deny an injunction.
“This whole thing about the status quo makes no sense whatsoever, because when you have a rule that is suddenly thrust upon you, that we believe is an illegal rule — so we believe that it violates various parts of the state constitution,” he told Breitbart News. “So if you can’t file for a restraining order to stop them from continuing to violate your rights, then when can you ever possibly have a successful lawsuit of any kind?”
To further the “status quo” argument, Dunaway also explained in his injunction denial that “courts across the country, including a federal district court in Georgia, have routinely declined to enjoin local government mask mandates and have consistently held that there is no constitutional right not to wear a mask.”
But when Holloway looks at the jurisprudential landscape across the country, he told Breitbart News that “these judges who’ve been hearing these cases around the country, really, many of them — if not most — are elected officials, and there’s always some element of politics that creeps into judicial thought processes.” Holloway said, though, that he is not saying politics played a role in this case and he does not “want to be seen as disparaging this particular judge.”
Since the denial of the injunction, Fulton County schools’ superintendent, Dr. Mike Looney, has made masks optional again given the school district’s low coronavirus caseload, according to Holloway and McCranie. Looney has also mentioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of some coronavirus vaccines for persons ages five to 11 as a promising development.
Masks to be optional in all Fulton County schools starting Monday https://t.co/OaZkfbW8Oi
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution (@ajc) October 29, 2021
When asked if they thought the mask mandate might turn into a vaccine mandate, Holloway told Breitbart News that “[Looney] has said that he’s not going to make [vaccines] mandatory. He is under a lot of pressure from others, though, to do a mandate, but he says he’s not doing that. And I hope he sticks to that.”
If a vaccine mandate were put in place, however, McCranie said she would fight that just like she is fighting the mask mandate, explaining, “If you think we’re gonna let you put a vaccine mandate on us next without going to war over it, you’re wrong. I think having kids that young vaccinated for sickness that scientists proved is not harmful to them is absurd.”
Looney’s office told Breitbart News that “Regarding vaccines, the district has encouraged our community to get vaccinated for COVID-19 but has not mandated it for employees nor students. We have maintained the decision for students remains with the parent.”
Despite Looney making the school district mask-optional again, Holloway explained to Breitbart News that they are moving forward with an appeal anyway, as “It’s something that’s a legal wrong that was committed by the school that is capable of repetition.”
As such, the goal of their appeal is to ban mask mandates from returning in the future, and Holloway said he feels optimistic about their prospects.
“We got good witnesses, we had good evidence,” he explained. “The law is on our side, I believe, and we believe that very strongly. They didn’t call any witnesses, they put forth no evidence, whatsoever. The only affidavit they submitted was the head school nurse, and it was all hearsay, it was just cut-and-paste CDC guidelines … They presented zero evidence to rebut our claims that masks cause harm to children. So, the undisputed evidence in the case is that masks are harmful, and they’re doing it anyway.”
The case is McCranie, et al. v. Fulton County School Board, et al. in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia.