(Update: Adding video, comments)
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Redmond School Board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to retain outside legal counsel as it seeks to regain local control when it comes to state mask and vaccination mandates.
The board chose to hire Dan Thenell of the Portland-based Thenell Law Group to look at possible legal actions.
Thenell is also representing Oregon State Police troopers and firefighters, as well as health care workers in lawsuits challenging Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority over vaccine mandates.
Back in August, the board passed a resolution on a 3-2 vote that “demands” the state return control of pandemic safety measures such as mask and vaccine requirements to local school districts, threatening possible legal action, and rejected adding back an explicit promise to follow the mandates in the meantime. (Though Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline said the district would do just that.)
The resolution’s long list of “whereas” clauses noted that the state expects schools to return to full-time, in-person classes this fall, while more recently requiring everyone to wear masks indoors for most activities at school, and that all school staff and visitors be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.
Board Chair Shawn Hartfield, who voted in favor, said she wants to focus on the job they were elected to do, which she says is to give kids a quality education.
“I don’t think any of us want to put our kids in danger,” Hartfield said. “I’m a very protective mother and I make sure my kids are safe everyday. So that’s what I think this is about. Not just going out and creating lawsuits to have a lawsuit.”
Board member Michael Summers says he hopes to find another path forward, or a way to explore options through legal counsel.
“My hope is that we are able to find another path or at least explore other options, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are in defiance,” Summers said. “We’ve been given two options and the statement essentially there’s no other way, there’s no other option.”
Liz Goodrich, the lone board member who did not approve of outside legal counsel, said she was curious if the board had an appetite for spending what could be a large amount on legal fees.
The board says up to 130 staff members could be out of a job, due to the vaccine mandate, but Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline says he fully expects that number to drop by the deadline as more are vaccinated.
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