Judge dismisses challenge to West Virginia’s COVID-19 school re-opening plans

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A Kanawha Circuit Court judge dismissed an attempt to immediately stop West Virginia’s school COVID-19 plan, and to force Gov. Jim Justice’s decision not to call a special legislation.

The Governor, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and the state’s Department of Education appeared for an oral argument in Kanawha Circuit Court to show why the Court should not grant the preliminary relief requested by Alex McLaughlin.

Petitioner Alex McLaughlin was seeking to compel the governor to convene the state’s legislature to pass laws insuring the continuity of governmental operations during the COVID-19 state of emergency Governor Jim Justice declared March 16.

The suit also seeks to stop the state from enforcing the School Re-entry Metrics and Protocols program Justice announced Aug. 14.

“There’s just a huge number of people who have been working really hard and I know that many of those people, like myself, are single or working parents and they don’t have anyone to watch their kids during the day,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin says the system unconstitutionally discriminates against students and their parents in the right to education and “free schools,” claiming it singles out school buildings for closure under certain circumstances relating to the spread of COVID-19, without the schools’ ability to comply with requirements for masks, social distancing, and basic hygiene protocols that apply to other forms of indoor assembly.

However, Justice’s representative said returning to school when a county is seeing high numbers is just too risky.

“The evidence in the case is that if you do that, the incidents of COVID will increase, the number of people who will get sick will increase, hospitalizations will increase, and more people will die,” Ben Bailey, the attorney for the the governor, told the court.

Judge Tod J. Kaufman denied McLaughlin’s request for a preliminary injunction to immediately stop the use of the metrics and says he will decide next week after hearing more from the attorneys whether to dismiss the suit entirely.

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