With Help From a Beer Maker, There's a New Front Opening in the Battle Over School Masks

5 min read
The owner of the Minocqua Brewing Company is using his super PAC to fund lawsuits that would force Wisconsin schools to require masks
Shannon Jensen was diligent about making sure her sons wore masks to school when classes resumed in September. Other parents in Waukesha, Wis., weren't. And three weeks after school opened, Jensen's eldest son, who was seated next to an unmasked classmate who had COVID-19 symptoms, fell ill with the virus.

Soon, another of her boys had tested positive, according to a lawsuit that marks a new twist in the ongoing battle over what schools should be doing to protect children from the coronavirus. While parents across the country have filed lawsuits against states and school districts to protest mask mandates, Jensen, with backing from a local beer maker, is suing to force all of Wisconsin's school districts to require masks and other safety measures in classrooms.

Her lawsuit, filed Oct. 6, is one of two being funded by the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC over schools' handling—or alleged mishandling—of in-person learning during the pandemic. Kirk Bangstad, who owns the brewery and who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat against a Republican incumbent in the Wisconsin State Assembly last year, calls this "the boldest project we've ever taken on."

"We're not looking for damages. We're looking for a judge to basically place an injunction on school districts who aren't following the CDC guidelines for masking, social distancing, contact tracing and quarantining in schools," says Bangstad, who has raised more than $50,000 through the super PAC to fund the lawsuits. "We're not looking for money."

Kirk Bangstad, whose Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC is backing lawsuits demanding schools require masks to stem the spread of COVID-19. Courtesy Kirk Bangstad

The legal battle brewing

Bangstad launched his super PAC in January, but before then, his brewery's political leanings were clear. It has offered a "Biden Beer" (marketed as "inoffensive and not bitter"), a "Bernie Brew" and a stout honoring Vice President Kamala Harris, described as "the strongest beer we could…
Katie Reilly
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