A Sheffield schoolgirl is taking legal action against her school for ‘requiring’ pupils to wear face masks, which she claims ‘risks causing children serious harm’ to their physical and mental health.
The pupil is suing the Tapton Academy School Trust, which runs a number of primary and secondary schools in the Sheffield area, to stop it from ‘requiring or encouraging’ children to wear masks at school to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The 12-year-old, known only as AB, who has been exempted from wearing a mask at school, says mask-wearing could lead to ‘long-term’ harm.
But the trust argues that it only encourages the wearing of masks, in line with Government guidance, in order to protect children, staff and visitors.
The Sheffield schoolgirl claims mask-wearing could lead to ‘long-term’ harm (PA/David Jones)
The trust also says that more than one in 10 of its staff have contracted coronavirus since the end of August 2020.
At a remote hearing on Friday, AB’s lawyers asked the High Court to grant an interim injunction preventing her school and the trust from making children wear masks.
Francis Hoar, representing the pupil, told the court: “The school’s policy risks causing children serious harm to their physical health and their mental health.”
Mr Hoar added: “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.”
He argued in written submissions: “The available evidence shows that not only is there no additional risk of transmission of the virus in school settings but also that, by comparison to any ordinary social or work setting, the risk is likely to be lower given the extremely low prevalence of the virus in schools.”
Mr Hoar accepted that AB did not have to wear a mask at school, but added: “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, representing the trust, told the court that ‘the trust policy is to encourage, not to enforce’ the wearing of masks.
He said the trust had ‘quite properly’ carried out a risk assessment and encouraged pupils and staff to wear masks, in part to help prevent transmission of coronavirus in the wider community.
Mr Bentley told the court: “Of the 1,000 staff members across the trust, 120, so more than 10 per cent, have contracted Covid-19 since August 31, 2020.”
He added that the application for an injunction was brought by ‘one claimant in the school at which, we are told, there are 1,000 pupils’.
Mr Bentley said: “The trust has provided you with evidence that it has not received any other formal, written complaints … from either students or staff in relation to its policy on the wearing of face coverings.”
He also said that preventing the trust from encouraging students and staff to wear masks could lead to further legal action from pupils who supported the policy.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Roger ter Haar QC said he would give his judgment at a later date.