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A 12-year-old girl is suing her school over its policy that pupils must wear face masks while they are in its buildings.
She claims that the policy “risks causing children serious harm” to both their mental and physical health.
Tapton Academy School Trust runs the school among others around Sheffield and says it “encourages” pupils to wear masks in line with government policy.
The trust added that 120 members of staff across its schools have contracted Covid-19 since the end of August 2020, which is more than 10% of all the staff.
But these startling figures were not enough to convince the pupil that masks should be worn.
Francis Hoar, who was representing the girl identified as AB, told the court: “The school’s policy risks causing children serious harm to their physical health and their mental health.
“If the trust had done its job properly … it would have gathered evidence and reached a view as to the effectiveness of this particular measure, but it has done no such thing.
“There is no evidence, effectively, of the efficacy of these instruments that are supposedly necessary to avoid the risk of transmission of the virus.”
Although Mr Hoar accepted that masks were not mandatory in the school, he said: “The child is still faced with a school environment where a child, save those who are disabled should, must rather, wear masks, and that is enforced, the child says, aggressively.”
Ben Bentley, who represented the school trust, responded that “the trust policy is to encourage, not to enforce” the wearing of masks in school.
Addressing the court, Mr Bentley said: “Staff members across the trust, the age range is from 18 to 75.
“Of the 1,000 staff members across the trust, 120, so, more than 10%, have contracted Covid-19 since August 31, 2020.”
He argued that the trust had conducted a risk assessment “quite properly”, and wished to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the wider community by encouraging pupils to wear masks.
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Mr Bentley added that if pupils were no longer encouraged to wear masks, this could lead to further legal action from pupils and parents who thought that masks should be worn in school.
A study at the University of Cambridge found that although wearing a face mask would not stop the pandemic by itself, it is the simplest and easiest thing that most people can do to reduce the spread.
Dr Renata Retkute, a researcher at Cambridge university who co-authored the study, said: “We have little to lose from the widespread adoption of face masks, but the gains could be significant.”
At the end of the hearing, Judge Roger tar Harr QC adjourned, saying that he would give his decision at a later date.
- Face Masks
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