Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas Judge Anthony Donofrio issued an order on Wednesday, October 28, denying a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would have prohibited the Boardman Local School District from enforcing its mask policy. This decision, while only a temporary victory, is a win for Boardman – and a good sign for school districts throughout Northeast Ohio.
The TRO was initially sought by a group of district parents calling themselves the “Boardman Ohio Parents Group,” who filed a lawsuit against the District earlier in the month. In challenging the mask policy, the Parents Group alleged that the District did not possess the authority to implement the policy, and that the policy was unreasonable and unconstitutional.
Argument on the TRO was heard by Judge Donofrio on Wednesday, October 20. PKM attorney Maria Limbert Markakis argued against the TRO on behalf of Boardman Local Schools.
In his order, Judge Donofrio ruled that the Boardman Ohio Parents Group was categorically unable to demonstrate the four elements necessary to obtain a TRO. Specifically, the Judge determined that the parents failed to demonstrate 1.) a likelihood of the lawsuit's success on its merits, 2.) irreparable injury would occur if the mask policy was left in place, 3.) the issuance of the TRO would not harm third parties, and 4.) the public interest would be served by the issuance of the TRO. The order concludes that the parents group failed to demonstrate even a single element.
In support of his decision, Judge Donofrio relied on several recent federal court decisions denying similar requests for TROs in the Northern District of Ohio and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Of Boardman's mask policy, Judge Donofrio wrote: “On its face, the reasons for the Boardman Local Schools' policy appears to have a rational basis, the policy is not unreasonable, and there appears to be a reasonable basis between the rule and the furtherance of a valid educational purpose, to wit, continued in-person classroom teaching.”
Accordingly, Boardman's mask policy remains in place until at least January 27, 2022, when an evidentiary hearing will be held with respect to a permanent injunction on the subject. Due to the Judge's denial of the TRO, PKM and the District are optimistic that the mask policy will once again survive challenge.