NEWS RELEASE: Ottawa County Department of Public Health releases the following statement regarding some of the inaccurate statements attributed to Libertas School’s Attorney from the Thomas More Society and its Headmaster

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December 1, 2020

Media Contacts: Kristina Wieghmink, Public Information Officer I mobile/text 616-510-8523

Douglas W. Van Essen, J.D. Corporation Counsel

Ottawa County Department of Public Health releases the following statement regarding some of the inaccurate statements attributed to Libertas School’s Attorney from the Thomas More Society and its Headmaster


“Libertas School has been treated in a manner consistent with all other schools and employers throughout Ottawa County,” said OCDPH Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky. “When our department receives complaints of violations to public health laws, we follow up with clear guidance on the requirements and assist schools in ensuring their actions are compliant and consistent with all health protection measures. Libertas School has been the only Ottawa County school that has not corrected non-compliance after receiving communication from our department.”

“As Judge Maloney aptly put it,” says OCDPH Corporation Counsel Doug Van Essen, “perhaps Libertas School is the only school in the County that stiff-armed the County when it called to obtain compliance with the face mask mandate. Libertas School was forced to admit in Court that OCDPH had no religious animus and indeed both OCDPH Health Officer, Lisa Stefanovsky, and Deputy Health Officer, Marcia Mansaray testified they share many of the same values of family, faith, freedom and service to others.”

The Honorable Judge Paul L. Maloney of the U.S District Court declared in his written opinion, “Libertas has not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits that any of the County’s actions were retaliatory…Both Stefanovsky and Mansaray explicitly denied any animus or retaliatory motive for the decisions and actions on the part of the County. On this topic, both witnesses were credible. Libertas’ other attempts to prove it was targeted by the County do not change this conclusion.”


“The voluntary representations about medical intolerance to face masks are not applicable here,” said OCDPH Deputy Health Officer Marcia Mansaray. “None of the parents at Libertas School have previously reported any medical intolerance of their children to face masks. All Ottawa County schools are required to obtain written medical exemptions for students not to wear a face mask during school. For Libertas School to now claim that most of the children have a medical intolerance is not credible, especially after the federal courts have twice denied the school an injunction. Given the uniform history of noncompliance and the school’s failure to obtain injunctive relief against the face mask mandate, Libertas School’s effort to use this as a wholesale excuse to refuse to wear masks is not good faith, so we had to require a doctor’s slip for this exemption to be used at Libertas School.”


“It is not accurate to say that Libertas School is not a transmission ground or that because students have less severe cases, they should be exempt from adhering to the face mask mandate,” reports OCDPH Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky. “We had three teachers become infected with the virus in a short time, with the school being a likely common source. Since the community will not report its connection to Libertas School in medical records, the school community may have a higher positivity rate for infection than known to public health officials. Based on epidemiological data, there have been students and family members associated with Libertas School COVID-19 infections. Sports participation records also indicate Libertas School students participated in athletic events with other schools when they should have been in isolation or quarantine, potentially spreading the virus to others in attendance. Libertas School students also attend classes or other activities with students from other schools, such as the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District Careerline Tech Center, carrying with them the risk of exposing others who are working hard to comply and protect themselves and their home school district from COVID-19 cases.”

“Public health measures are critically important during events where the spread of disease can’t be controlled with a vaccine,” Stefanovsky adds. “It is not always easy balancing the personal rights of one against the rights of another. The truth about communicable diseases, such as COVID-19, is our actions impact the health and well-being of others. COVID-19 has no geographical boundaries. The best thing people can do is consistently follow these simple infection prevention measures; wash hands, wear a face mask, maintain a 6-foot distance and avoid gathering in large groups. Now is the time—in the middle of a surge—to redouble our efforts not to relax them. School can be a relatively safe zone if face masks are worn and the other disease prevention measures are practiced religiously. If they are not, we have seen the effects. Stay masked, stay safe and stay open is our consistent motto.”

More information about Ottawa County's COVID-19 response at