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Court Ruling Means California Schools Can Violate Students’ Rights When Following Public Health Orders
We are so proud of our Editor-in-Chief, Kristin Lang, whose Op-Ed regarding the Palicke case was just published in The Epoch Times.
by Kristin Lang,
May 16, 2024
Palicke family 2024

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Written by Kristin Lang

As we near the end of the school year, a new court ruling may have some parents rethinking whether they want to enroll their children in California’s public schools this fall.

Those of you living in Southern California will likely remember the case of Aidan Palicke. An academically-gifted Yorba Linda High School student and captain of the track team, Aidan was forced to take his exams outside in 40-degree weather wearing only a t-shirt. School officials singled out Aidan for wearing a formerly acceptable mesh face mask to school during the COVID era.

“I was freezing, and all of the other students were looking at me through the window,” Aidan told me. “My fingers were in so much pain from the cold that it was hard to concentrate on my exam.”

Aidan said some teachers encouraged his fellow students to ridicule him for not conforming to the mid-year change in masking policy. Aidan said he was hauled into the principals’ office repeatedly, removed from campus, and ultimately forced into a home-based study program against his wishes.

Aidan’s family sued the Placentia Yorba Linda School District (PYLUSD) in March 2022, arguing that some PYLUSD board members colluded to change masking policy mid-year to punish “conservative” students or students whose parents were vocal in opposing various COVID measures at the school.

According to evidence presented in court, confusion ensued across the school district as teachers and school officials selectively enforced this policy, allegedly allowing favored students to wear any mask, or no mask at all. Some school board members testified that they wanted to stop the chaos the new masking policy was creating but were blocked from voting on it by other members of the school board.

“After two years of litigation, an Orange County Superior Court judge who had been ruling in favor of the Palicke family and against dismissal suddenly reversed course and ruled that school officials were immune from liability for their admittedly illegal and abusive actions to students during the COVID era—setting a dangerous precedent,” said Rita Barnett-Rose, an attorney for the Palicke family during a press conference in Orange County on May 13.

“Specifically, Judge Deborah Servino determined that, even though the facts of the case undeniably showed that certain PYLUSD school officials violated their students’ constitutional and civil rights, they were nevertheless entitled to legislative immunity because they were enforcing public health orders.”

Judge Servino further ruled that because the school district has since withdrawn their mask mandate, and Aidan Palicke has already been forced out of the school district, all claims against school officials are “moot,” and Aidan is no longer entitled to be compensated for the harm inflicted on him.

At the PYLUSD board meeting on May 7, school board member Marilyn Anderson, a defendant in the case, announced to a smattering of applause, “The Palicke lawsuit, it’s not in the agenda anymore because it was dismissed by the judge!”

However, the Palicke family is getting some surprising and much-needed support from the new PYLUSD superintendent of schools, Alex Cherniss. In an open letter to the Palicke family on May 8, he called Ms. Anderson’s statement “abhorrent” and “shameful,” writing:

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Palicke …

“As an educational leader, I have spent years pushing back against uninformed and overly punitive Covid restrictions that truly damaged our kids. …

“I found the actions taken by Ms. Marilyn Anderson at the Board of Education meeting last night to be abhorrent. … Clearly, the announcement of a case dismissal in her board comments violated the Brown Act. …

“I have no doubt that the purpose of her public statement … was her way of gloating at the fact that your case was no longer relevant to her or to the school district. Her statement, and the subsequent applause at the expense of your son was truly shameful.”

I reached out to Marilyn Anderson for comment. As of the time this article was published, she had not responded.

The Palicke family is appealing the case despite having used up significant family savings in their quest to seek justice for their child. The Palickes are getting some financial support from non-profit Free Now Foundation, where, in full transparency, I work as editor-in-chief.

This week, at the press conference in Orange County, Aidan’s father Chris Palicke vowed to fight on.

“The granting of this motion [to dismiss] was appalling,” said Mr. Palicke. “This means that all schools in California are allowed to abuse and hurt children. We need to fight this and do what’s right not just for my family but for all children.”

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Kristin Lang Epoch Times Author Bio

Kristin Lang

About the Author, Kristin Lang

Kristin Lang is the Editor-In-Chief and Operations Director for Free Now Foundation. Previously, she served as a communications vice president in a Global 500 healthcare company. She is also an Emmy award-winning executive television producer and on-camera investigative journalist. Kristin’s strong beliefs in civil liberties and medical freedom led her to Free Now Foundation, where she is excited to develop original content and thought-provoking commentary.


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