What Accommodations Are Available for Children Who Have Difficulties With PPE?
As schools are re-opening, many are requiring all staff and students to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), or facemasks, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These procedures are supported by CDC and WHO guidelines, and research has shown that proper mask etiquette and social distancing can prevent outbreaks. However, some children with disabilities have difficulties wearing masks and may need additional accommodations for in-person classes.
School districts have a duty to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to all students, and this legal requirement still applies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools cannot limit a disabled child’s in-person lessons as part of face covering requirements and must make appropriate accommodations to ensure they receive the same treatment as everyone else. If a school district denies your disabled child access to in-person classes due to their inability to wear a face covering, you should not forget your child’s right to FAPE and your legal options.
Face Mask Requirements and Exceptions
The California Department of Education (CDE) has stated that it understands the difficulties that parents and children may face in complying with school district’s face mask requirements and upholds the tenants of FAPE in these matters. The CDE encourages all schools to comply with CDC and California Department of Health’s (CDPH) guidelines but has outlined several exceptions to these rules. According to the CDPH’s face covering guidelines, individuals who are exempt from wearing facemasks at all times, including:
- Children younger than two-years-old
- Individuals with medical conditions, mental health conditions, and disabilities that prevent wearing face coverings, such as individuals who may have difficulties breathing or who are unable to remove face coverings without assistance
- Individuals who are hearing impaired or communicate with individuals who are hearing impaired
- Individuals who, while wearing face coverings, could become injured while completing work
FAPE Still Stands During COVID-19
As the CDE highlights, students with disabilities are exempt in certain situations from wearing face masks, and appropriate accommodations should be made to ensure they still have access to FAPE. In order to balance both COVID-19 safety guidelines and FAPE requirements, school districts should evaluate if individuals with disabilities must wear a mask if they can:
- Wear a mask or covering correctly
- Avoid frequently touching the mask and their face
- Limit sucking or drooling on the mask or if it will cause an excessive build-up of saliva
- Remove the mask without help
If a child is unable to fulfill any of the above requirements, then they should not have to wear a mask and should not be excluded from classes. School districts must provide the least restrictive environments for students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA.)
If a school district does try to deny your child access to a classroom or appropriate accommodations based their inability to wear a face covering, you should speak to a Los Angeles special education lawyer at Woodsmall Law Group. Denying a child FAPE is a violation of their civil liberties and you do have a right to file for due process to uphold your child’s rights.
Our legal team can sit down with you and your family in a free consultation to explain how to resolve the dispute. We have years of experience standing up for students throughout Los Angeles County and can provide you with the same legal expertise. Call Woodsmall Law Group at (626) 440-0028 today to speak to our legal team in a free consultation.