Parents of private school students in Montgomery County sue county health officer

A half dozen parents of private school students in Montgomery County filed a federal lawsuit against the county’s health officer.

The families thanked Governor Larry Hogan for prohibiting the county’s blanket ban on private schools reopening, but they say they’re pushing ahead with the lawsuit until Dr. Travis Gayles order is officially rescinded. The parents and their attorney say their schools are ready to reopen safely, but the county took unilateral action without looking at what those plans were.

RELATED: Maryland Governor’s order overrides Montgomery County plan to keep private schools closed

"They never looked at the plan – and if you got back and listened in our call, they specifically indicated that they didn’t have the time or the resources to do so. There was complete unwillingness to do so,” said Montgomery County private school parent Kim Beahn.

Tim Maloney, the attorney for the plaintiffs, told FOX 5, “The schools had hired faculty and staff all in reliance for the state superintendents directive that they could reopen and make their own reopening decisions. This was a political decision and not a public health decision."

RELATED: Montgomery County private schools won't reopen before October, official says

Metrics from the Maryland Department of Health show back on April 20, the positivity rate in Montgomery County was 32 percent - at the time, six percentage points higher than the state average. Today? Montgomery’s rate has fallen to 2.8 percent, with a state average of 4.4 percent, which is under the White House Coronavirus Task Force five percent target.

The progress spurred Hogan to praise Montgomery County in a news briefing last week. But in defending his private school closing order just yesterday, Dr. Gayles painted a very different picture.

"In order for us to reopen schools safely, we need to have lower community transmission and daily caseloads, and in the absences of that, we that remote learning is preferred until we have control over the virus," said Dr. Gayles.

FOX 5's Tom Fitzgerald reached out again Tuesday to speak with Dr. Gayles and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. Instead, a spokesperson provided the following statement: "The county is aware of the matter and our attornies are reviewing it." 

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Meanwhile, parents protested Gayle's order outside of Elrich's office in Rockville on Wednesday evening. Watch below:

Late Wednesday evening, Gayles doubled down and issued a new order that private schools must remain closed to start the school year.

FOX 5's Lindsay Watts has more in the video below: 

Governor Hogan has not yet responded on the renewed order to keep private schools closed in the county.