Court dismisses majority of complaints in school district lawsuit

District to ask court to dismiss rest of lawsuit since…there is no mask mandate

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

Four of seven complaints filed against the Gunnison Watershed School District and school superintendent Leslie Nichols in a lawsuit last fall were dismissed last week in Gunnison County District Court by judge Steven Patrick.

Basically, the court declared in an order issued on March 10 that plaintiff David Justice, who along with parents of RE1J students Tomas Gomez, Michael Spritzer and McKenna Basara filed the original suit, did not have sufficient “standing” in most of the complaints. 

While acknowledging that Justice had standing along with the other plaintiffs in their complaint alleging the school district violated the Colorado Open Meetings Act (COMA), the court reviewed the history of the district action and concluded the COMA “claim is not plausible” so it was dismissed by Patrick.

The other three complaints dismissed by Patrick include Justice’s request that the school board grant him an appeal of Nichols’ decision to implement the mask mandate last fall, the claim that the mandate was unconstitutional and the complaint that the mandate decision violated the requirement for public inspection as it was not posted in a sufficient manner.

Patrick made clear in his order that he agreed with the district argument that Nichols and the district has broad authority to regulate the health and safety conditions within its school facilities.

Patrick did not dismiss the claim that the mandate hurt the students through the Colorado School Attendance Law since they were not permitted to attend class without a mask. He also did not dismiss the claim by the plaintiffs that the mask mandate violated their constitutional right to the custody and control over their children.

The school district has until the end of the month to respond to the court order. Nichols said the district’s plans to file a motion to dismiss the remaining three complaints based on mootness since there is no longer a mask mandate in the district.

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