DULUTH – A group of Iron Range parents are ending their lawsuit against the Rock Ridge school district over a mask mandate.

More than 280 parents of students who attend the district of 2,600, which include the cities of Virginia, Eveleth and Gilbert, asked earlier this month that the district toss its entire COVID-19 mitigation plan, remove its mask requirement or offer alternative learning. They called masks an unwanted "preventative medical treatment" and said students' constitutional rights were violated if they were denied education for not wearing them. The district argued it was following widespread expert public health guidance.

The group gave up their lawsuit after Virginia District Judge Robert C. Friday denied the parents' request for a temporary restraining order against the district, saying in court records the constitutional harms alleged "are not real but imagined."

An attorney for the parents, led by Julianne Paulsen, Nicole Dahl and Mandy Akerson, according to court records, offered a statement Friday that said while they are "disappointed" in the judge's decision related to the restraining order, they have "decided not to pursue the case further."

They noted the political climate as the reason they didn't think they would succeed on appeal.

"Most of all we hope and pray for an end to the pandemic and a return to normalcy for our children, whose lives have been endlessly disrupted over the last year and a half," the statement said.

Rock Ridge Superintendent Noel Schmidt said Friday that the parents' decision to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit "ensures that the district can continue to follow the guidance of public health experts."

"Now that this matter has concluded, we can all come together to do what we can to combat the spread of COVID-19 to ensure that our students have the opportunity to continue their education in-person at school," he said.

Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450