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Federal Disability Law Doesn't Require School Districts to Mandate Masks

Added 01-21-22 06:21:02pm EST - “So holds today's opinion by Judge William S. Stickman IV (W.D. Pa.) in Doe 1 v. Upper Saint Clair School...” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “Federal Disability Law Doesn't Require School Districts to Mandate Masks”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

So holds today's opinion by Judge William S. Stickman IV (W.D. Pa.) in Doe 1 v. Upper Saint Clair School Dist.:

Plaintiffs … allege that their children are "medically fragile disabled students" and that permitting families and students to choose whether to mask will subject them to increased risk of catching COVID-19 and increased risk of harm from the virus. They allege that, in light of their children's medical conditions, the School Board's decision to make masking optional violates both Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act … and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ….

To be clear, Plaintiffs do not allege that the policy adopted by the School Board hinders their own child's ability to wear a mask. Rather, they allege that, by permitting other students and families to choose whether to wear masks, the policy violates the cited statutes. Plaintiffs … [ask, in effect,] that, notwithstanding the vote of the School Board, universal masking would be ordered to remain in place for an indefinite period, provided that transmission of COVID-19 remains "substantial" or "high" in Allegheny County…. Their request for injunctive relief is premised on the position that universal masking is the only reasonable accommodation to which they are entitled under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act….

There is no question that the School District has enacted a number of safety measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 [including physical distancing, cleaning and ventilation, contact tracing, diagnostic and screening testing, and efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities]…. Critically, the Plan also provides for the following "[a]ppropriate accommodations for students with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies": "The School District will review additional mitigation options for staff members and students who are at higher risk for severe illness, including necessary accommodations under the ADA, Section 504, or the IDEA." During argument, these provisions were referenced by counsel for Defendants, who explained that accommodations granted to students "who are at higher risk for severe illness" include a variety of measures, including distancing, special seating in classrooms and, if necessary, at-home instruction or virtual classes.

Despite those safety measures and possible accommodations, Plaintiffs take the position that the only reasonable accommodation appropriate in light of child Plaintiffs' conditions is a requirement of universal masking in the School District … so long as transmission of COVID-19 in Allegheny County is at a "substantial" or "high" level.

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