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Douglas County mask exemption order no longer applies to schools, board of health says

The Douglas County School District sued to block enforcement of the county's order granting mask exemptions.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo — The Douglas County Board of Health approved a motion Friday to revise their Oct. 8 public health order to affirm that it does not apply to the Douglas County School District (DCSD)

Now, the county said, the board of health cannot enforce the order against schools that are owned, operated or controlled by the school district.

"We amended our order to reflect what the judge has already decided and have removed enforcement of this order on the Douglas County School District," a statement from the board read. 

"We believe this is the most prudent decision at this time as it will: 1) Stop the clock on potential litigation costs associated with defending the order; 2) Allow the new school board to come into office with maximum flexibility as they determine the path forward to provide proper protections provided under state and federal law for all students and all teachers," the statement continued. "Our Board of Health looks forward to meeting with the newly constituted Board of Education to discuss the best path forward and then move forward as a unified County."

On Oct. 8, the health board approved a public health order that allowed parents to give their children exemptions from mask mandates by writing and signing a request "due to the negative impact of that individual's physical and/or mental health."

DCSD filed a lawsuit asking the courts to block enforcement of that order, saying it violated the federal civil rights of students with disabilities and put the health and learning of vulnerable students in jeopardy.

A temporary restraining order was granted on Oct. 26. A federal judge granted a two-week extension Monday.

RELATED: Dougco schools suing to block new public health order

Douglas County Board of Health President Doug Benevento told 9NEWS when the lawsuit was filed that the board was confident that the order struck the appropriate balance with respect to mask mandates, providing exemptions for parents with children "that would be negatively impacted from a health or psychological standpoint from a blanket mask requirement."

RELATED: Douglas County Health Department taking over COVID-19 services this month