GREENWOOD VILLAGE | A federal judge has granted an injunction to Cherry Creek school board candidate Schumé Navarro, who sued the district over its requirement that she wear a mask at candidate forums held on school grounds.
In a lawsuit filed Sept. 28, Navarro claimed that the district was violating federal disability laws by refusing to grant her an accommodation for its series of six candidate forums, the last of which was held Thursday evening.
Navarro has made numerous posts to her YouTube channel, Don’t Tread on Mae, protesting mask mandates, promoting unsubstantiated and debunked election fraud conspiracies and unproven claims about COVID-19.
The lawsuit says that she is unable to wear a mask “due to a nasal deformity that makes it difficult for Mrs. Navarro to breathe even when not wearing a face covering” and “a psychological disorder stemming from severe child abuse incidents that include suffocation. This disability causes her to panic and have substantial difficulty concentrating when her mouth or nose is covered.”
The suit asked for an injunction allowing Navarro to participate in the remaining candidate forums along with fines and damages.
In a response to Navarro’s lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the district said that it had offered to let Navarro participate in the candidate forums remotely as an alternative.
Navarro had provided a letter from a licensed counselor saying that she could not wear a mask for health reasons and recommending an exemption, but the district said that this did not count as a request from a licensed medical professional.
The response also said that Navarro had posted a video on social media saying that “my doctors at UC Health will not give me an exemption” and had posted a photo of herself in January wearing a mask with the caption “Who’s with me on getting patriot fit? I HATE the whole mask thing but I hate the thought of being weak and out of shape at the brink of civil war.”
In an injunction filed Thursday, federal judge Daniel Domenico ruled in her favor, restraining the school district from enforcing the Tri-County Health Department mandate that masks must be worn on district property on Navarro.
“Mrs. Navarro has provided essentially unrebutted evidence that she has a mental health disability that limits her ability to concentrate, think and communicate while wearing a mask,” Domenico wrote.
Navarro’s social media posts “do not contradict her assertion that wearing a face covering causes her psychological distress,” the injunction said.
A licensed counselor qualifies as a medical provider and the degree of risk that Navarro would pose by not wearing a mask at candidate forums is not sufficient to require her to participate remotely, according to the injunction.
It noted that the district has given a small number of employees exceptions to the mask mandate.
“No doubt the district and the public have a strong interest in minimizing the spread of COVID-19,” the injunction said. “But the potential transmission risk from one unmasked attendee seated on a stage with substantial social distancing from other members of the public, students, and other candidates seems small.”
The district is ordered not to enforce the mask mandate on Navarro, and Navarro must remain six feet away from other members of the public in any indoor school setting. It did not mention any financial award to Navarro, which her lawsuit has also requested.
Navarro is one of three candidates running for the District D school board seat, along with Jennifer Gibbons and incumbent Kelly Bates. She has frequently spoken out against mask mandates at school board meetings and on social media, and a key platform of her campaign is parental choice regarding masking in schools.
In a post on her campaign Facebook page, she describes mask mandates as “medical tyranny.”
“Masks are medical devices that MUST be consensual!” the post said. “And we do not consent!”