(CBS4) – A group of parents in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties filed suit Tuesday against Tri-County Health Department over its mask mandate in schools. Tri-County issued a public health order in August requiring teachers and administrators to enforce the mandate or face criminal penalties.

(credit: CBS)

Becky O’Guin, Communications Manager for Tri-County Health, said in a statement that “TCHD provides education and support in an effort to obtain voluntary compliance” but she also told CBS4’s Shaun Boyd “a violation of a public health order could carry jail time.”

Attorneys Suzanne Taheri and George Brauchler are representing the parents. They say only the legislature can pass laws with criminal consequences, not a health department with an unelected board.

The mask mandate, they say, does not allow exceptions for special needs students, indoor sports or religious objections and, they say, it is arbitrary, “TCHD’s own public health data actually indicates children ages 2-18 are the least likely population to be harmed, hospitalized, or killed by COVID19, and that schools are not major transmission points that lead to community increase in hospitalizations or deaths caused by COVID19.”

Tri-County does not require masks anywhere else. The lawsuit says, “Adults, including seniors, in TCHD’s jurisdictions, while at a significantly higher health risk according to TCHD’s public health data, are able to attend large gatherings, indoor concerts, sporting events, without a mask mandate in place. Further, all Coloradoans, regardless of age, currently have the choice to not wear a mask in every setting other than schools or childcare facilities.”

Shaun Boyd