Early this year, the Loulé Tax and Administrative Court granted a preliminary injunction in favor of two parents of high school students in Aljezur.
One of them filed a preliminary injunction to try and ensure their two children could return to classes this week without the requirement to wear masks.
The bid presented dozens of peer-reviewed studies showing that wearing masks does not stop viral transmission.
It also referred the court to studies on the negative effects of wearing masks on children’s mental and physical health.
When the injunction was granted, other parents who had been too worried to “come on board” for fear of reprisals began to take an interest.
A movement began to stir.
Early in the morning of Monday January 10th – hours before the school gates opened – the parents who won the injunction received an email from the Ministry of Education, in the form of a “reasoned resolution” (resolução fundamentada).
This reasoned resolution essentially suspended the power of the injunction, citing public interest.
It was completely unscientific. In a nutshell, the ministry said it was concerned that other parents at the school might be afraid if certain children attended unmasked; they might feel that their own children would be at greater risk.
The lawyer who brought the case has since travelled down to Aljezur to meet with what is now a sizable movement of parents.
He told The Resident he expects a response from Loulé court within ‘two to three weeks’ – and hopes it will be in favor of the parents. The judge agreed with their evidence the first time – and the Ministry of Education did not refute it: it simply suggested that “other people might get upset”…
The Lisbon-based lawyer has been representing parents and others who have questioned the legality of various measures since the beginning of the pandemic.
Specialising in administrative and constitutional law, he explains the measures, particularly in terms of masks “are recommendations and not obligations. There is no legal basis for imposing them on others – and we are not in the grip of a pandemic in which large numbers of people are dying. There is no health emergency right now. Continuing to insist that children learn and spend so many hours of the day wearing masks is beyond reasonable.”
“It was very good to see the decision of the Loulé administrative and fiscal court. It corresponds with decisions made by courts in Lisbon”, he told us.
In Lisbon, several parents have taken precautionary measures in defense of their childrens’ rights to go to school unmasked – and these children are now doing so.
We don’t tend to read about these system challenges in the press, but they are happening all the time.
The lawyer, who has no interest in becoming a public figure, is fully occupied by what he calls cases of “abuse of power of public office”, whether they occur in schools or elsewhere.
Clients are taking private actions… and winning.
They are not ‘conspiracy theorists’, he insists. These are serious people who are making their own decisions, in this case, in the interests of their children.
A Portuguese national himself, the lawyer says: “it helps that this injunction in Aljezur was filed by a foreign citizen. The Portuguese mentality can be a little too closed. People accept too much. Foreigners are more open-minded; they can be braver. In this case, it started with foreigners and now the Portuguese parents have become involved. I can only see it growing.”
For now, the parents (of children aged 11 and 12) have to wait for the Loulé Court to respond to the lawyer’s response to the ‘resolução fundamentada’.
They are determined. They won’t take no for an answer. Indeed, the decision to take legal action only came after “many email discussions with the Aljezur school principal”.
This stand – in a rural backwater of the Algarve – is an illustration of the well-known quote attributed to American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; in fact, it is the only thing that ever has.