In 2021, as the COVID19 vaccines are distributed to more people, most states – including Orington (the 51st state) – have opened schools again. While the governor of Orington has not specifically ordered the use of masks, she has recommended that school districts devise and enforce mask rules as they see fit. The Oath Takers are a loose group of clubs that have members across Orington’s Santa Carla School District; each high school has a “chapter.” Vehemently believing that the mask mandate goes too far – they believe masks should not be required outside if a 6-foot distance is maintained – they planned a protest across the district: for the first few minutes after the morning announcements, Oath Takers would go outside, remove their masks for one full minute, and then return to classes. The District Superintendent heard about the coming protest, and made an announcement threatening suspension for any students participating: “This is not a message the school wants to promote. We will use any and all tools available to suppress false information.” The next day, the Oath Takers proceeded to have their protest. After the morning announcements, they quietly left classes, went outside, removed their masks for one minute while socially-distancing at least 6 feet from each other, and then placed their masks back on and went back to class. The entire exercise took no more than 5 minutes. There was no violence, nor were there any additional disturbances. All 30 students participating in the protest were suspended from school for 3 days for breaking the following District rule: “All persons must be masked at all times while on school grounds, with exceptions as determined by school officials.” The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that: masks are effective in preventing/slowing the spread of COVID19; persons should socially distance at least 6 feet from each other; 15 minutes around infected persons over a 24-hour period constitute “close contacts” where the likelihood of spread is high; public schools are not a significant source of community spread. The suspended students sued the Santa Carla School District for a violation of their Constitutional rights. Identify the issues and rules that arise under the U.S. Constitution in this case. How would each side argue each rule? Use only the U.S. Constitution and cases assigned for this class. In crafting your answer, you may want to consider: If you were the attorney for the students, how would you argue your case? If you were the attorney for the Santa Carla School District, how would you argue your case?
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