Home News Forest Hills school board members sued over mask mandate meeting

Forest Hills school board members sued over mask mandate meeting

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Note: This story was updated to include a statement by Jennifer Kappell, resident named in the lawsuit but is neither a plaintiff nor defendant. 

 A lawsuit filed Wednesday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on behalf of a resident in the Forest Hills Local School District says the board of education and its five members violated the Open Meetings Act when the board approved a mask mandate for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The suit seeks a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction to prevent the mask rule from going into effect claiming the board improperly gave notice of a special meeting when the vote was taken and then exceeded the scope of that meeting when imposing the mandate.

A notice of a special board meeting was announced for Aug. 7 and then rescheduled for Aug. 11 for a “discussion on the 2021/2022 reopening plans”.

The lawsuit claims the actual purpose of the meeting was to discuss and vote whether students would be required to use masks and “such specific purpose was known by the members and/or administration of the Forest Hills Local School District in advance of the special meeting held on August 11, 2021.”

In addition, a PowerPoint presentation specifically addressed the subject and options concerning masks at Forest Hills schools.

The suit says the special meeting notice failed to include the specific purpose of a mask discussion and that, “failure to disclose that specific purpose was deliberate in an effort to mislead the general public as to the true purpose of the special meeting.

A resident who is mentioned in the lawsuit, but is not a plaintiff or defendant, Jennifer Kappell, said in a statement to FOX19 NOW “all allegations are false.”

Here is her statement in its entirety:

“All allegations are false, I was used as a scapegoat by a coward who is wasting time, money, and resources that should be spent on the children of the community. An injunction will be filed as a 3rd party to reveal John Doe. Once the name is revealed, other legal actions will be sought. This useless, self-indulgent martyr fixation exhibited by Anti-science zealots will not be tolerated by the sensible people of Forest Hills.”

Unlike other board meetings, the Aug. 11 special was not broadcast on YouTube and the lawsuit claims that was part of an effort to keep the public from having access to the proceedings and “was part of a continuation of the effort to not state the specific purpose of the special meeting.”

More: Forest Hills requires masks in classrooms for elementary students; optional masks for high schoolers

The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment that the school board and its members violated or threatened to violate the legal requirements of the Open Meetings Act by failing to state the specific purpose of the meeting and exceeding the scope of the meeting.

It also seeks an injunction that would preclude the school board and its members from convening any special meeting of the board without notice stating its specific purpose and exceeding its school.

More: Masks for back to school: How to fit and where to buy kid-sized masks

Finally, the suit asks that any action taken by the board during its special meeting on Aug. 11, including the imposition of a mask mandate, be invalidated.

A spokesperson for the Forest Hills School District says the district has not yet been served and cannot comment on a lawsuit they have not yet received.

Forest Hills students return to school on Aug. 19 and 20

While the mask mandate impacts elementary students in instructional settings, facial coverings will be optional in hallways, restrooms, recess and other non-instructional settings.

Enquirer Media partner Fox 19 provided this report.

Here is the suit:

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