When A Mandate Becomes A Request

Previous DCSD mask mandates violated the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Douglas County School District is under a legal obligation to protect their students’ health by taking all necessary precautions, and they did not do so under their previous mask mandate until parents took action to overturn it. 

Students with disabilities and immune compromised students have been frequently left out of conversations surrounding universal masking. This exclusion has not only created mental distress for the parents of those students, but has also increased the risk of those students’ health being jeopardized; evidently contributing to the common knowledge that DCSD does not have their students’ best interests in mind. 

As it is not a secret that Douglas County is a [mostly] conservative county; I am sure the DCSD school board was aware that students, especially at an impressionable age, will jump at the opportunity to not have to wear masks, even when consistently being nagged with information that supports a counterargument. This begs the question: Why is it such an inconvenience to wear a mask if the purpose is to keep your peers safe? 

Yes, “healthy” students may only have a small cough and fever after contracting COVID-19, but that is not a universal immune response. We must understand the extra risks for immunocompromised students and long lasting conditions that could appear after contracting COVID-19, especially as the number of COVID-19 cases in DCSD continues to rise. Just the fact that our school board dismissed the risks of a large number of DCSD students up until their parents entered into litigation is very disheartening.

No parent deserves to feel as though their child’s civil rights and equal access to education is being threatened with their health, and that is what DCSD’s previous mandate ensured. 

Most people do want to maintain the health of all students; the only difference of opinion is how we maintain it. With few exceptions, masks should be worn as an effective safety measure as we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. It is crucial that our DCSD school board continues to uphold their obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect all students, and to acknowledge the complexity of COVID-19’s impact on various groups.

[Photo from Decorah Newspaper – Driftless Journal]