Academy trust wins court battle on student mask-wearing

Judge rejects 12-year-old schoolgirl's case on the basis that she was exempt from wearing a face covering at school

Tes Reporter

Covid and schools: An academy trust has won a legal battle over face masks

A student has lost a High Court fight against a multi-academy trust for "requiring" students to wear face coverings, after claiming they risk causing "serious harm" to children's physical and mental health.

The 12-year-old girl brought legal action against the Tapton School Academy Trust, which runs a number of primary and secondary schools in the Sheffield area, to stop it from "requiring or encouraging" children to wear masks at school to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The schoolgirl, known only as AB and who has been exempted from wearing a mask at school, said mask-wearing could lead to "long-term" harm.

Background: Academy trust fights injunction over masks in class

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At a remote hearing last month, AB's lawyers asked the High Court to grant an interim injunction preventing her school and the trust from making children wear masks.

Covid and schools: Claim that wearing face masks can 'harm' students

However, the trust argued that its policy "is to encourage, not to enforce" the wearing of masks, in line with government guidance, in order to protect children, staff and visitors.

The court previously heard that 120 members of staff across the trust's various schools, representing more than 10 per cent of its total staff, had contracted the coronavirus since the end of August 2020.

In a judgment on Wednesday, Judge Roger ter Haar QC rejected the request for an injunction, as the pupil is not required to wear a mask and the injunction was not necessary to protect her health and safety.

He said: "The case, as presently put forward by the claimant, suffers from a fundamental defect: the school does not require the claimant to wear a mask – she has been treated as being exempt from that requirement."

The judge said he made "no conclusions whatsoever as to the safety or otherwise of requiring children to wear face masks at school".

AB's lawyers had provided a report from a chartered health and safety practitioner about problems children may face wearing masks, as well as a report from a clinical psychologist about psychological risks of a mask-wearing policy.

Judge ter Haar continued: "Put shortly, the underlying premise of the claim is that the physical and psychological risks presented to children by the requirement to wear face masks is not justified by medical or epidemiological evidence.

"That is a belief strongly held by many people, including the claimant's father, as illustrated by the fact that, as I was told, this action has been crowdfunded."

He added that the witnesses' views "do not represent universal scientific and medical views as to the scientific and medical merits, disadvantages and dangers of the wearing of masks in schools".

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Tes Reporter

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