With covid case counts rising, especially among children, the state has been mandating masks. For those in schools.
But some districts are taking advantage of an apparent loophole making it easier for kids to opt-out of wearing a mask.
Crispin Havener take a closer look at this new mask fight.
“You got to look around, common sense, this is something that if we don’t do this we’re not going to have a year with kids in the classroom and that’s going to be a wasted lost school year for our children. ”
Tough talk from Gov. Tom Wolf when it was announced his acting health secretary was reinstating a mandatory mask mandate for schools and daycares in the state.
“We know there will be objections to this action. We’re asking folks to keep it in perspective.
But some school districts that have read the actual words of the mandate argues it’s all bark and no bite.
The reason? In their interpretation of the Department Of Health’s order, it does not say how schools need to prove a student has a qualified health reason to forego a mask. Meaning many districts are sending letters out like this, where only a parent has to sign off on saying their child has a valid medical reason, no doctor’s approval required.
One of those districts is Conemaugh Township Area School District in Somerset County. Superintendent Thomas Kakabar told me 35% of their students have turned in a parent exemption form, adding if the Governor or DOH wanted a physician’s excuse, they should have specifically stated that in the order, therefore, there would have been no question.
However, since they did not, they have put school districts in a no-win situation and in some districts, created very dangerous situations.
While other districts also say the letter of the law gives them room to move forward this way, many others say the spirit of the law means they’ve been asking for a doctor’s note to go with it…though that hasn’t stopped some physicians from giving out form letter doctor’s excuses for parents to use at will.
Now the Department Of Education is stepping in, issuing a warning shot with a letter they say they sent to one unnamed school district warning officials that if they try to use the loopholes, they
could face lawsuits and a federal civil rights probe.
But as some parents continue to express their displeasure, it goes back to a question I asked gov. Wolf when the order was announced about overcoming skeptics. He said he simply couldn’t understand why there would be.
“I’m not sure why there is pushback on this…if we don’t do this where does this leave us? … There are a lot of whole bad things that happen that we see every day. Just look around. And to say that does not happen, that’s closing your eyes to reality. I have every confidence the schools will do the right thing by their students and parents”