Parents sue Park City School District, Summit County health officials over COVID-19 testing program
They claim implementation of ‘Test to Stay’ is a violation of their constitutional rights
The parents of two Park City students are suing the Park City School District and Summit County health officials, among others, alleging that the frequent COVID-19 testing program the district has used in an attempt to prevent outbreaks is a violation of their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court on behalf of Holly and Mark McClure, whose children attend Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High School.
The “Test to Stay” program was implemented at PCHS and Treasure Mountain in late January following COVID-19 outbreaks that caused officials to close the schools for nearly two weeks. Under the program, which has also been employed in other school districts in Utah, students must take rapid antigen tests every two weeks in order to attend class in person.
In the lawsuit, the McClures claim the program unfairly requires parents to choose between consenting to their children being tested or having their children learn remotely.
“There is no option for any parents or students to opt out of continuing COVID-19 testing while keeping their healthy, non-symptomatic children at school for in-person learning,” the lawsuit states, later adding that in-person learning has been shown to provide better educational outcomes.
The McClures also take issue with a number of other elements of the program. The lawsuit outlines concerns over who has access to the data obtained in the consent forms and tests, why the testing program was deemed necessary and the accuracy of the rapid antigen tests.
“Plaintiffs strongly believe in their rights as parents to direct the medical care of their children, zealously protect those rights, and seek to vindicate the rights of all parents to make medical decisions for their children,” the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, the McClures informed school administrators in January both that they did not consent to their children participating in the program and that they wanted their children to continue in-person learning.
In early February, the McClures were told their student who attends Treasure Mountain “would be placed in isolation every day that Plaintiffs brought (their child) to school without consenting to the continuing COVID-19 testing,” the lawsuit states. The student at PCHS was also pulled from class and isolated, according to the lawsuit.
The McClures claim they were informed a few weeks later that their children could return to class since more than 60% of students were participating in the “Test to Stay” program. According to the suit, the district on Tuesday told Park City parents that the program was being put on hold due to declining case numbers at schools and in broader Summit County. But the McClures remain wary that the testing protocols could at some point be restarted.
“They will continue to suffer irreparable harm unless Defendants are enjoined from continuing to implement or enforce any policy that mandates the testing of non-symptomatic students as a condition of access to in-person public education,” the lawsuit states.
Listed as defendants alongside the district are Superintendent Jill Gildea; the five members of the Park City Board of Education; the Summit County Board of Health; Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough; Chris Cherniak, the chair of the Summit County Board of Health; State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson; and Rich Saunders, the director of the Utah Department of Health.
In response to a Park Record inquiry about the litigation, Gildea said, “We learned about this late yesterday and are going to be taking some time to review the complaint.”
A Summit County spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Park City School District’s Board of Directors is getting closer to a price tag for its district-wide plan to increase class space and improve wraparound services at its schools, but no decision has been made on how much of that $140 million will be part of a bond election.