An Orange County father is suing his son’s high school, claiming the teen was in effect expelled for wearing a mesh face mask.
Aidan Palicke, a 17-year-old junor at Yorba Linda High, has not attended classes since January, when he was told not to return to campus without a protective face covering.
Chris Palicke’s lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court says that the school’s “targeted harassment and discrimination” led to his son’s “expulsion” into a home-based study program.
The complaint was filed by Palicke and the California chapter of Children’s Health Defense, a non-profit organization founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that promotes an anti-vaccine agenda. It names Yorba Linda High, the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District and various district and school officials, including six teachers.
District spokeswoman Alyssa Griffiths declined to comment on the lawsuit. She said no students have been expelled from the district for failure to comply with the face mask rules.
For much of the pandemic, students and staff on school campuses across California have been required to cover their faces to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. That state mandate was lifted on March 12.
The lawsuit alleges Aidan Palicke was singled out in retribution for his parents’ vocal opposition to face masks and other district policies.
Chris Palicke, like some others who are against the use of face coverings, said it is unhealthy – even harmful – for children to wear masks for prolonged periods. Aidan Palicke said he finds it difficult to breathe and that he can’t concentrate on schoolwork when he’s wearing a regular mask.
For nearly two years, Aidan wore his mesh mask, as did many other students and even some staff members, according to Chris Palicke, who has photos from indoor school events showing many students either wearing masks improperly or not at all.
In a Jan. 14 letter, Superintendent Jim Elsasser updated families and staff on mask policy: “Masks with holes and mesh masks are not acceptable.”
Aidan Palicke said in an interview Monday that the experience has affected his schooling and his relationships with fellow students.
About two weeks after he was told he must wear a non-mesh mask on campus, he was allowed back to take final exams. But he said several teachers forced him to take the tests outside when the temperature was in the 40s and he had not brought a jacket.
“It was cold. It was awkward. All of my peers were looking at me. My fingers went numb from the cold,” he said. “I couldn’t concentrate.”
According to the lawsuit, the younger Palicke has been ridiculed and mocked by other students – sometimes at the encouragement of teachers. As a result, he left the Yorba Linda High cross-country team, where he was a captain, as well as the track team.
And although he could have returned to campus after the face mask requirement was lifted, Aidan and his father said too much has happened since. They plan to look at other academic options in the coming fall.
“I would rather stay home and be alone than go back to a bunch of kids who would make fun of me,” Aidan said Monday.
The lawsuit argues that school officials violated various education codes and constitutional rights while inflicting emotional distress. The lawsuit seeks, among other things, a court order barring the district from suspending or expelling students from in-person instruction for failing to comply with mask policy.
Aidan Palicke said he wants to ensure that other students – particularly younger ones – don’t experience what he did.
“I’m trying to protect those kids who can’t protect themselves,” he said.
Source: Orange County Register