DENVER — In its response to a lawsuit from school board candidate Schumé Navarro, Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) said she has “substantially undermined” her own arguments against wearing a mask at candidate forums.
The district filed its response on Monday, nearly a week after Navarro's lawsuit alleged the district violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it would not allow her into the forums without a mask.
CCSD points to Navarro's own social media posts as part of the reason to deny her injunction:
- In January 2021, Navarro had also posted on social media a photograph of herself wearing a mask, captioned: “Who’s with me on getting patriot fit? I HATE the whole mask thing but I hate the thought of being weak and out of shape at the brink of civil war.” These postings made Deputy Superintendent Perry, as part of a team put together to consider the requests, question the information she had received.
- On September 16, 2021, a community member sent the School District a video Navarro had posted where she said: “And I’m sorry. I get that you are offended that I do not wear a mask. I don’t wear it because I don’t want to comply to [sic] all of this.” This made Deputy Superintendent Perry further question the material Navarro had supplied.
Navarro had provided the district with a note from her counselor saying she "cannot medically tolerate" a face mask because of trauma she experienced in the past. In her original complaint, Navarro said she panics when her mouth and nose are covered, and she has a nasal deformity, as well.
But according to a different social media post cited by the district, Navarro said “my doctors at UCHealth will not give an exemption.”
In its filing, CCSD wrote it could not accept the counselor's letter because that person is not a Colorado licensed medical provider as required by a public health order from the Tri-County Health Department. The letter also failed to name a specific medical condition preventing Navarro from wearing a mask and did not list suggestions for recommended alternatives, the district said.
- …Navarro asserts she need not have presented any documentation at all in support of her request for accommodation. This is wrong. While the ADA does not require a claimant provide expert evidence of their disability to prove a prima facie case in every instance (such as when it is obvious), it is well known that those to whom the claimant presents a request for accommodation can require documentation as a prerequisite to granting one.
CCSD also wrote that it offered Navarro the opportunity to participate in school board candidate forums remotely, with the district providing technical support. Navarro did use this option for one meeting on Sept. 30, CCSD said. The district also said this meets the need for a reasonable accommodation as required by the ADA.
- Just as any other candidate for the Board, Navarro can answer questions from and communicate with audience members at all remaining forums sponsored by the School District. While Navarro is likely to argue that she will somehow be harmed by not participating in person—apparently, unlike other candidates, without a mask—any such harm is unclear and speculative. That will not suffice.
Navarro's attorney previously told 9NEWS that her lawsuit is seeking a personal mask exemption for medical reasons, and it is separate from Navarro's prominent political advocacy against mask mandates in Colorado's schools.
Navarro has gained a following in conservative circles because of that opposition to masks and for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories, saying that President Joe Biden was fraudulently elected in a "coup" by China linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. After being in Washington, D.C. during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, she also described "all-out war" with satanic communism.
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