A Cherry Creek School Board candidate with disabilities has filed a federal lawsuit against the school district, seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow her to run for the board without having to wear a COVID-19 mask during her candidacy at public forums.
Schumé Navarro, in a complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver, claims that she is “disabled and unable to wear certain face coverings due to her disabilities.”
A candidate for the District D seat, Navarro’s disability stems from “severe child abuse incidents that included suffocation,” according to the complaint. “The disability causes her to panic and have substantial difficulty concentrating when her mouth or nose is covered.”
A licensed cosmetologist, Navarro graduated from Cherry Creek High School in 2004. She owns and operates Peacock Vanity.
“She simply wants to compete on an equal playing field with the other candidates, without being discriminated against based on her disabilities,” said Dan Burrows, legal director of Public Trust Institute, a Colorado nonprofit organization. Burrows and PTI represent Navarro.
Navarro has filed the necessary documents to run for the board and her name will appear on the November 2021 election ballot, according to the complaint.
On Sept. 14, Navarro was instructed to wear a mask at a candidate forum at Overland High School. She took it off because she was having “difficulty breathing, substantial anxiety, and overwhelming distraction.” the lawsuit said.
On Sept. 21, the school district sent an email to all board members saying they must wear a mask while speaking or be considered a “trespasser” and be barred from school property, according to the lawsuit.
Navarro is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to allow her to run for the board without wearing a mask. She claims the district is “unlawfully discriminating against her based on her disabilities.”