Virginia’s parents argue in court for disguising the premises for students at risk

On Monday, attorneys presented their cases to a U.S. District Court judge in a case that could temporarily block SB 739 and allow the return of the mandate for masks in certain situations in Virginia public schools.

This article was written by WTOP news partner InsideNoVa.com and reissued with permission. Subscribe to Free subscription via InsideNoVa.com email today.

On Monday, attorneys presented their cases to a U.S. District Court judge in a case that could temporarily block SB 739 and allow the return of the mandate for masks in certain situations in Virginia public schools.

Last month, the parents of 11 students with disabilities, including one student from Manass City Public Schools, appealed to a federal judge to impose a temporary ban on SB 739 and Governor Glen Yangkin’s Decree № 2, which effectively lifted the school’s mask mandate. from March 1.

To do this, parents sue Yangkin and a number of other government officials, but do not sue the local school departments. Ahead of Monday’s hearing, the Fairfax County School Board issued a statement in support of the plaintiffs, calling the state law unconstitutional.

On Monday afternoon, Judge Norman Moon of the U.S. District Court of West Virginia heard oral arguments in the case, saying he would try to get an exception quickly. Introducing the parents, Eva Hill told Judge Norman Moon that the plaintiffs’ case was not an attempt to restore universal mask mandates in Virginia public schools.

Hill said the new law – passed by the General Assembly in February – and Yangkin’s order violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires schools to make smart facilities for students with disabilities to allow public education.

For students like Jack Nelson, a 10-year-old Jenny Dean schoolboy in Manasos with cystic fibrosis (a disease that can interfere with breathing and makes patients particularly prone to lung infections), this could mean an individual plan that requires classmates to wear masks while same classroom or other mitigation strategies, such as social distancing, according to Hill.

«[Plaintiffs] seek not to deny reasonable changes to mask requirements to the extent that a student with a disability requires that their peers be in masks to be safe at school. The requirements for the mask for any student will be different, “Hill told the court on Monday afternoon. until the county’s COVID transmission rate declines. “

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that more than 10 percent of cystic fibrosis patients require critical care within a month of being diagnosed with COVID, but the study was conducted before vaccines were introduced.

Hill said school departments have tied their hands to a new Senate bill that bans any kind of mandatory mask in public schools. In turn, Jack and other students were forced to stay at home on the advice of doctors, denying them public education to which they are entitled by law. According to Hill, their schools either said they could not implement an individual disguise plan or did not respond. MCPS declined to comment.

“According to the ADA, the state has a duty not to exclude students with disabilities and to reasonably change policies if necessary to allow students with disabilities access. SB739 and Order 2 are state law, and if they conflict with federal law, they must give way, ”Hill said.

But Moon analyzed a number of Hill’s allegations, at one point asking if every school in the state where a high-risk student falls ill with COVID-19 could give masks to their classmates. Hill replied that camouflage would be needed only to the extent necessary to protect the student as in their classroom.

Virginia’s general soloist Andrew Ferguson, speaking for the state, pushed off on a number of fronts. For starters, he said, both Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miares are strongly in support of the rights of students with disabilities to access public education. But, as he told the court, the plaintiffs sued the wrong way. If schools do not respond or do not comply with federal plans for students with disabilities, parents should take action against their local school units for violating the ADA.

He also argued that even with the ban on mandatory camouflage in Virginia’s public schools, there are a number of other smart devices available to schools and parents to ensure the safety of their students.

“This could include vaccinations, social distancing, improving isolation … providing high-quality masks to students with disabilities,” Ferguson said.

He also noted changes to federal guidelines for COVID, including a recent change in Centers for Disease Control Centers that repealed the recommendation on indoor masks in much of Virginia.

“Even the president of the Union State noted in his speech the end of the general disguise,” he said.

Finally, Ferguson argued that the ban in this case would cause difficulties and confusion following recent changes in most school units to optional policies, while probably still not getting parents the treatment they seek, and the number of cases falling rapidly across Virginia.

“I think it is unbelievable to say that school departments will now follow the same policy that they originally adopted a year ago. However, if the court decides that it has jurisdiction … then the question is whether the forced disguise of the plaintiffs’ classmates everywhere and indefinitely is the only reasonable device that could meet the requirements of the ADA, “Ferguson said. “The answer to that question is no.”

Last month, an Arlington County District Court judge issued a ban on seven school boards against Youngkin’s order on the grounds that it violates 2021 state law passed by the General Assembly. This decision forced a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly to adopt SB 739, revoking all mask mandates in schools by March 1 and making the Arlington case obsolete.

Concluding Monday, Moon told the parties he would try to make a decision quickly.

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