Kimberly Reicks, one of the mothers involved in the Ankeny School District debate on forced masking, filed a lawsuit on June 11 claiming the Ankeny School District retaliated against her for exercising her First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Alan Ostergren, who is representing Reicks, claims that the district retaliated against Reicks and punished her child by depriving the child of equal opportunity to participate in educational activities and by placing her inside a plexiglass enclosure without justification.
Laura Ryan, the principal of Northeast Elementary in Ankeny is named specifically in the suit, as is former superintendent Al Azinger.
Ankeny started the school year requiring children to wear masks on school property. Reicks, along with other parents, expressed concern to the board, administrators and teachers regarding the policy, especially for children in younger grades.
Her daughter wore a cloth or paper mask while at school until she was diagnosed by her doctor as suffering from a staph infection on her face caused by mask usage, the lawsuit states.
The doctor recommended O.R. (the daughter) to not wear a mask while at school on Dec. 4, 2020. Reicks informed Ryan and Alberts of the doctor’s recommendation. Ryan and Alberts allowed O.R. to be in the kindergarten classroom, but socially distanced from other students.
Ryan sent an email to Reicks with the following photo attached showing how O.R. would be seated in the classroom. O.R. would be at the table alone, separated from other students with the purple binder on it.
On Jan. 12, 2021, Reicks shared a post on Facebook expressing her dissatisfaction with O.R.’s isolation in the classroom. She included the photo with a circle drawn over the table where O.R. would be isolated.
Throughout January and February, Reicks worked with O.R.’s doctor to find an accommodation to prevent additional facial infections from mask usage and maximize O.R.’s ability to participate in school.
The doctor issued a note on Jan. 18, 2021 indicating O.R. shouldn’t wear a mask as much as possible and should be allowed to not wear a mask while distanced more than six feet from others.
After meeting with Ryan on Feb. 10, 2021 to discuss O.R.’s difficulties with wearing a mask and her feelings of isolation from other students, Reicks received an email on March 22 from a middle school sociology teacher indicating Reicks’ older daughter had been removed from class because she wasn’t wearing her mask properly.
At the March 22 board meeting, Reicks spoke against the district’s mask policy and expressed her opinion of the harm being done to children and others by the forced masking.
The next day, according to the lawsuit, O.R. arrived at school and was directed to go to the principal’s office to eat lunch. O.R. returned to the classroom and was required to sit at her desk while enclosed in a plexiglass enclosure. Reicks had not been informed beforehand that this measure would be imposed.
When O.R. arrived home, she told Reicks about the situation. Reicks immediately phoned Ryan to find out why O.R. was placed in the enclosure. She asked to see the classroom with the enclosure and was told she would not be allowed. When Reicks asked for a photograph, she was also told no by Ryan, who mentioned the previous social media post by Reicks showing the classroom and O.R.’s isolated desk.
Eventually, Reicks felt it was necessary to remove O.R. from school activities to prevent her from experiencing “more punishment” due to Reicks’ exercise of her constitutionally protected rights.