Interim judgment Dutch lawsuit about safe education

Press release Interim judgment lawsuit by the Protect Everybody Foundation against the Dutch State about safe education in schools:

Preliminary Relief Judge finds the arguments of the State for its corona policy for schools unconvincing, State must provide more information.

The preliminary relief judge (in the event of early action) rendered an interim judgment in the proceedings of the Protect Everybody Foundation and a number of concerned parents about safe education at schools. This case concerns, among other things, making education safer during the corona pandemic. One of the claims is that the state adheres to WHO guidelines: at least one meter away from secondary schools and, if that is not possible, wear a mask as long as the virus circulation is high.

The preliminary relief judge ruled that the defense of the State is not convincing so far. The State will still be given the opportunity to provide further explanation no later than December 23. Plaintiffs may respond to this again on December 30, after which the preliminary relief judge will issue a final judgment.

The preliminary relief judge considers the following in the judgment:

4.11. The defense mentioned under (i) is not convincing, because not only the OMT (Dutch Outbreak Management Team) can be regarded as an authority in the field of combating the coronavirus, but – as already mentioned – also the WHO. In addition, although the OMT does not propose to take additional measures in schools, in the report of 3 November 2020 it does report that it is concerned about the transmission of the coronavirus among adolescents and young people. This concern is in line with recent epidemiological reports from the RIVM (of November 24, 2020 and December 1, 2020), in which is reported that young people aged 15-19 years are currently the most infected group. Moreover, the OMT is considering the – more far-reaching measure – of online education for secondary education. In that light it is understandable that plaintiffs have doubts about the decision to leave education untouched – apart from the measures already in place.

4.12. The Preliminary Relief Judge considers the other arguments of the State to deviate from the WHO guidelines on this point not as convincing either. The State has not made specific that and how the use of mouth masks during class would hinder their progress. In addition, it is in itself correct that outside of school (apart from in public indoor spaces) there is no safe distance standard and mandatory masks, but outside school it is possible to choose to avoid certain places where secondary school students or others gather. Compulsory education prevents this with regard to visits to a school building.

The Foundation and the parents had also demanded that the information provided by the State about the contagiousness and spread of the virus among young people be adjusted. Prior to the court case, the State had already removed or amended a number of statements. The Preliminary Relief Judge has established that there is a lack of clarity about the precise role of young people in the spread of the virus, but ruled that the (adjusted) statements of the State are not careless, because the information also states that increases as they get older.

Finally, it was claimed in these proceedings that the State should no longer call on school attendance officers to enforce compulsory education with regard to parents at home in connection with the risk of infection with the coronavirus. Compulsory education was not enforced during the first wave. In this regard, the preliminary relief judge considered that during the proceedings the State „has explicitly confirmed that exemptions from the physical attendance requirement are of course „possible”. That is why, according to the preliminary relief judge, the policy of the State is not clearly incorrect, even under the current circumstances.

The judge did remark the following: „The file in this case contains examples of correspondence between compulsory education officers with parents, in which there is a threat of criminal prosecution and the involvement of the Child Care and Protection Board. Although the preliminary relief judge does not have the impression from the arguments of the plaintiffs When it is widely avoided to engage in a reasonable conversation, it goes without saying that attendance officers show some sensitivity in this matter. It is understandable that parents with children, other family members or (cared for) family members with vulnerable health, are concerned about their health as long as the coronavirus is circulating. These special cases require some leniency. It is up to school attendance officers to find a reasonable path in this. „

The plaintiffs

The Protect Everybody foundation was established with the aim of promoting a safe society during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and promoting maximum containment of the coronavirus. The following platforms and organizations are affiliated with the foundation: Containment Now, EndCoronavirus, New England Complex Systems Institute, Scholen Veilig, Scholenmeldpunt and the Zero Covid Alliance. The other claimants in the case are parents who are seriously concerned about the situation in schools, and/or parents who keep their child at home for fear of contamination and are confronted with enforcement by attendance officers and sometimes even with Child Services.