Brewery’s Super PAC fed up with “anti-science’ school boards, helps parents sue.
A Wisconsin brewery that says it’s fed up with “anti-science,” “Tucker Carlson-watching zombies” is funding a series of lawsuits against school boards that do not follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on COVID-19. So far, the Minocqua Brewing Company’s Super PAC has helped parents sue two school districts and says it plans on “suing every school board in Wisconsin that doesn’t follow CDC guidelines to protect the spread of COVID in schools.”
In a Facebook post Sunday, brewery owner and Super PAC founder Kirk Bangstad answered a question that he said he was asked in “every interview” he did with news outlets last week: “Why is a brewery funding this lawsuit?”
“Our Super PAC should NOT be funding these lawsuits,” Bangstad wrote. “We always thought that our government, the teacher’s union, the ACLU, the hospitals, the nurse’s unions, or any other number of progressive groups or ‘academies of smart people who understand stuff’ should be stepping up to block the alt-right, anti-science, and anti-history nonsense that has overcome school boards across our state. Wisconsin communities have exploded with the Delta variant because many school districts have dropped all forms of COVID mitigation that were in place last year due to the shrieking hordes of Tucker Carlson-watching zombies separated from their cerebrums and driven only by their lizard brains.”
“YouTube epidemiology degrees”
The first of the planned lawsuits was filed against the Waukesha school district “[b]ecause we met the plaintiffs in Waukesha first. It’s really as simple as that,” Bangstad wrote. “Our goal all along was to bring a class-action lawsuit against all school districts in Wisconsin that weren’t protecting kids, teachers, and communities, but we had to start somewhere. We hope that this Waukesha suit is accepted as a class action to cover the entire Federal Eastern Judicial District of Wisconsin, and we plan to file another suit in the Western District next week that will hopefully scoop up all the school districts #upnorth.”
Bangstad wrote that there is one high school “where we’ve heard that anyone daring to protect kids and staff from COVID are being railroaded by folks who still have delusions that Trump won the election and who recently got their YouTube epidemiology degrees in ‘how masks cause carbon dioxide poisoning.'”
The Super PAC wasn’t founded specifically for suing school boards. Bangstad wrote in an appeal for donations that he objects to corporations being “able to influence politics through the use of ‘dark money.'” But that is allowed under US law, and “[s]ince the Minocqua Brewing Company is a corporation, and since I think my Republican representation in the Northwoods is poisonous for the people that live here, I’m creating a Super PAC to help defeat these people in 2022,” he wrote. Bangstad lost a race for a state assembly seat last year.
The Minocqua Brewing Company is committing 5 percent of its profits to the Super PAC, he also wrote. The pandemic had a big impact on his restaurant-and-brewery business, so Bangstad says he sold his building and is now selling so-called “progressive beers” at retailers. His offerings include an “inoffensive” Biden Beer and a “lovingly irascible” Bernie Brew.
Lawsuit alleges “state-created dangers”
The lawsuit against Waukesha officials was filed on October 6 in US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Plaintiff Shannon Jensen, whose child tested positive for COVID-19 after sitting next to an infected, un-masked classmate at Rose Glenn Elementary School for two days, seeks class-action status and “injunctive relief from a class of defendants for violating various student rights under the United States Constitution, state law, and abatement of a public nuisance under Federal Common law and Wisconsin state law” by refusing “to implement reasonable COVID-19 mitigation strategies,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit argued that Jensen’s child “and those similarly situated have a cognizable right under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be safe from state-created dangers while in school” and that the school has “an affirmative duty under the Fourteenth Amendment… to maintain adequate COVID-19 mitigation measures to protect their students.”
The complaint cited lax policies, saying, for example, that Waukesha schools are “currently allowing visitors and volunteers to enter the WSD [Waukesha School District] schools without masks, COVID-19 screenings, or requiring negative test results.” Extracurricular activities also “currently do not have adequate COVID-19 mitigation measures in place.”
Because of the delta variant’s spread, the CDC says it “recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
“By bringing students back to class, reinstituting extracurricular activities, and allowing potentially contagious visitors and volunteers into the schools without masks, WSD and the board threw students into a COVID-19 ‘snake pit,'” the lawsuit said, adding later that the district’s “refusal to implement the reasonable COVID-19 mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC and the DPI [Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction] is reckless.”
District removed masking requirement
In a declaration filed as part of the lawsuit, Jensen wrote, “On May 12, 2021, the Board of Education for the School District of Waukesha voted to remove most of the COVID-19 mitigation procedures from the schools within the district, including their requirement for universal masking. They chose to remove the protections despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to the contrary.”
The school district stood firm despite “protests and demands from concerned parents, political organizations and news media outlets,” and “the school year started on September 1, 2021, without mandatory masking, plexiglass dividers, temperature checks, contact tracing, or any other reasonable and necessary COVID-19 mitigation strategies implemented in the schools,” Jensen wrote.
Jensen said her three sons wore masks in school but that “very few of their classmates” did the same. After her oldest son tested positive, the boy “quarantined in our basement while our other two sons quarantined upstairs” for ten days.
Later in September, Jensen found out from another parent that four children in the same class had tested positive. She also “learned that the School District of Waukesha did not have a threshold or guidance from the Waukesha Board of Education for when the class would be put into quarantine and that there was no actual contact tracing being done in the school,” she wrote. Notices informing parents of positive tests usually came “several days after,” she continued.
Lawsuit: District created public nuisance
In addition to its 14th Amendment argument, the lawsuit says the school district created a public nuisance. “By holding classes without adequate COVID-19 mitigation measures, the board and WSD are causing COVID-19 to spread within the district’s schools,” the lawsuit said. Students “are being needlessly infected with COVID-19 due to the [district’s] reckless conduct,” and the “infected students then leave school and spread COVID-19 throughout the community.”
“By holding classes without adequate COVID-19 mitigation measures, the WSD and board are knowingly, needlessly, unreasonably, and recklessly exposing the public to COVID-19, interfering with the general public’s right to be free from unnecessary exposure to infectious diseases like COVID-19 and endangering public health,” the lawsuit said.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covered the Waukesha case on Saturday, writing that School District superintendent James Sebert declined to comment while school-board members did not comment or did not respond to requests for interviews.
The second brewery-funded lawsuit makes mostly identical claims and was filed yesterday against the Fall Creek School District and board in US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The lead plaintiff is Gina Kildahl, whose child at Fall Creek Elementary School wore a mask each day but tested positive after being in class with two other kids who had COVID-19. At least one of those classmates did not wear a mask to school, the lawsuit said.
After the positive test, Kildahl “chose to quarantine [the boy], and he missed two weeks of school.” The Fall Creek school district and board “are currently allowing visitors and volunteers to enter the FCSD schools without masks, COVID-19 screenings, or requiring negative test results,” the complaint said. A WEAU 13 News article said that Fall Creek School District Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo declined to comment on the lawsuit.