Brainerd parents demand resignations, damages over school mask mandate The district called the legal claims illegitimate. Audience members listen in on the Brainerd School Board meeting Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch <https://www.brainerddispatch.com/author/Theresa-Bourke1> By Theresa Bourke March 10, 2022 06:00 AM Share BRAINERD — Twenty-two Brainerd parents want School Board members to resign and pay punitive damages related to the district’s face covering mandate this year. The district’s legal counsel, however, says there’s no legal basis for the demands. Brainerd School Board members received “notice of wrongdoing and demand for redress” documents Wednesday, March 9, signed by 22 district parents. In short, the parents are demanding board members — along with Superintendent Laine Larson and Assistant Superintendent Heidi Hahn — resign by April 1 and each pay every parent complainant $250,000 in damages. Keith Haskell, who identified himself as an investigator with the National Action Task Force, passed out the documents to each board member during the public forum portion of Wednesday’s board meeting. Board member Tom Haglin was absent, as was Larson, who was attending the Minnesota Association of School Administrators Conference. Parent Nick Hillman addressed the board just before Haskell doled out the documents. “Here we are again, and it’s interesting to me to find out more information about why you would possibly not listen to the public on the illegal mask mandate issued on our kids and continued to push through with your own ways regardless. You are violating parent and child rights,” Hillman said. Hillman and others have addressed School Board members numerous times since the beginning of the school year, criticizing the district’s face covering policy put in place last August <https://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/brainerd-students-to-mask-up-split-school-board-vote-mandates-face-coverings> . The face covering mandate, which is no longer in effect, required staff, students and all visitors to district buildings to wear a mask or face shield while inside the building, with certain exceptions made for athletes competing in sports and for those with identified medical or behavioral needs. The board began phasing out masking requirements <https://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/local/listen-brainerd-schools-to-begin-phasing-out-mask-mandate> in mid-February. Haglin voted against the mandate in August, and it is unclear if he will receive the same documents as the rest of the board, as Hahn said there was not a packet left for him after Wednesday’s meeting. After demanding board member resignations and threatening legal action in the past, Hillman said Wednesday, “It’s time for all of you to go.” The packets handed to Hahn and board members included signed statements from the parents, the top one signed by Hillman himself. Hillman’s document laid out 13 “statements of fact,” asserting he was stopped from attending School Board meetings on three occasions in October and November last year for not wearing a face mask. “There is no authority delegated by the People of Minnesota in their Constitution providing for the power to interfere with their unalienable rights recognized under common law,” the document read. “... There is no statutory law of Minnesota establishing a general requirement for any one of the People to wear an unspecified medical device.” The School Board began live streaming meetings on YouTube during the COVID-19 pandemic and also offered face coverings in the boardroom for those who did not have them. Hillman did attend and wear a mask to all three meetings mentioned in his statement. The document calls for public resignations in writing no later than 8 a.m. April 1 and the payment of $250,000 in punitive damages for hindering the “free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege” secured to the complainant by the U.S. Constitution. The damages demand amounts to $5.5 million per board member. The statement, signed on March 6, also calls for a cease and desist with enforcement of wearing a face mask to gain entry into district buildings. The last phase of the board’s plan to eliminate the masking requirement went into effect Feb. 28, with face coverings no longer required in district buildings. Haskell told the Dispatch after handing out the documents the claims are against each individual board member and not the board as whole in an effort to pierce “the veil of protection that they have through the School Board’s attorney and legal representation.”
Keith Haskell, an investigator with the National Advisory Task Force, hands out legal documents to Brainerd School Board members during their meeting Monday, March 9, 2022. Screenshot Haskell and Hillman both questioned whether the face covering requirement was an attempt from the district to secure extra COVID-19 relief funding, including the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. While Hahn said there are guidelines schools must follow to accept the federal funds, she said there is no truth to the district receiving more funds because of a mask mandate, and much of the funds were tied to the district’s free and reduced lunch population. According to the U.S. Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, the emergency relief funds were issued to schools in the same proportion as each state received funds under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. That act is a program established to distribute funding to schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families. Further claims Julie Becker, another parent with students in the district, told board members during public forum they have failed to uphold the U.S. Constitution, as sworn to in their oaths of office, through mask mandates, COVID-19 tracing and quarantines. Becker presented them with notices of claim signed by three parents. The notices name Larson, Hahn and all board members except for Haglin. The notices assert the parents reserve the right to file a civil action in federal court under the “Common Law for Trespass OR under Title 42 Section 11983, for the deprivation of rights, privileges, and immunities by the Constitutions and Laws.” The notices also assert the parents reserve the right to file criminal complaints for any action found to be non-compliant with U.S. codes relating to conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights, false statements or entries, obstruction of persons in free exercise of religious belief, fictitious obligations and deprivation of religious beliefs. The claim says board members have 48 hours to either rebut the affidavit of fact presented, or the parents will begin to proceed with administrative, civil and criminal remedies.