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TUSD drops lawsuit against trustee member
TUSD cortinas
The Turlock Unified School District and Board voted to drop a lawsuit against Trustee Jeffrey Cortinas, who refused to follow mask mandates set by the state for school functions.

The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees voted Tuesday during a special session to drop a lawsuit against fellow school board member Jeffrey Cortinas. The district and school board filed the lawsuit a month ago, asking the Stanislaus County Superior Court to force Cortinas to wear a mask in meetings in compliance with California’s public health rules or agree to participate remotely.

In the lawsuit, the district and board blamed Cortinas’ consistent refusal to follow mask requirements for their inability to conduct their meetings in person, a cancelled meeting in January and other disruptions.

“Trustee Cortinas’ failure to wear a face covering or agree to alternative arrangements has placed the health and safety of his fellow Board members and District staff, students, and families at risk,” the district and board stated in court documents. “Moreover, Trustee Cortinas’ actions could also result in the District being fined for its failure to implement public health orders and mandates.”

On Monday, California announced that it will lift mask requirements for K-12 schools on March 12. The next board meeting is scheduled to be held on March 15, which will return to an in-person format, according to communications coordinator Marie Russell.

“Our intended efforts and outcome to return to in-person meetings with student engagement is now achievable with the updated State masking requirements effective for schools March 14,” said Russell. “Subsequently, the lawsuit is no longer necessary.”

Trustees Anthony Silva, Jose Sanchez, Mary Jackson, Daniel Benedict and Lori Carlson voted in favor of dismissing the lawsuit after meeting with additional members of the District and their lawyer for nearly 20 minutes.

Cortinas and Trustee Kenneth Howenstine were not present for the special meeting, but Cortinas joined the regular meeting that followed.

“I’m ready to move forward and put this behind us,” said Cortinas in an email to the Journal. “I hope the district administrators and other board members share the same sentiment. It’s time to heal and focus on our kids' health after these past two years.”