High school basketball

High school student-athletes playing basketball.

(The Center Square) – An advocacy group for student-athletes sued Michigan's health director, arguing new COVID-19 testing rules for teenage youth sports are "invalid.”

The Honigman Law Firm sued state Health and Human Services Department (MDHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel Thursday on behalf of Let Them Play Michigan and three student-athlete parents. The legal actions follow a March 19 health department rule ordering mandatory COVID-19 testing after increasing positive cases were said to stem from student-athletes.

The order aims to battle 315 reported outbreaks associated with high school sports as of Mid-March, officials said. The guidance requires weekly testing for student-athletes ages 13–19. Testing is required three times per week for contact sports without masks.

But some parents strongly disagree.

"As a direct consequence of MDHHS’s violations of their due process rights, Plaintiffs have suffered incalculable damages," the filing reads. "Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law for this continuing violation of their constitutional rights."

The lawsuit claims the rules of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration restrict student-athletes’ freedom of association.

“For more than a year, student-athletes have endured unilateral orders enacted by Executive Branch officials that severely restrict their ability to freely associate with one another and compete in high school sports,” the suit reads.

The orders "were invalidly promulgated without any opportunity for public participation, in violation of the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act and the Michigan Constitution.... They are also substantively invalid as arbitrary and capricious under the MAPA,” the lawsuit says.

Let Them Play sued Whitmer’s health department in February, calling for the return of the then-paused winter sports season, after which MDHHS decided to allow the return of winter sports.

The number of COVID-19 cases has increased in Michigan for five straight weeks. Health providers have fought back, injecting a total of nearly 3 million vaccines into arms. Almost 70% of senior aged residents — the age group comprising nearly 90% of the state’s deaths so far — have completed their first shot.

Whitmer attributed the uptick in cases to COVID-19 variants and the state’s pandemic rules that prevented Michiganders’ exposure and subsequently developing antibodies, the Detroit News reported.

Whitmer hasn’t yet enacted any new restrictions, but on Friday encouraged spring break travelers to get tested and announced 37 new pop-up testing sites.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.