masking and public health
Lewiston Public Schools has decided masks should be optional. The Superintendent, in his letter dated August 2nd, 2021, said he did not feel he was empowered to make health decisions for families. The school committee has supported this decision. However, the choice to allow choice is a public health decision. The Superintendent and school committee chose a path at odds with federal and state recommendations for school reopening. The CDC and Department of Education (at the federal and state level) recommend that we open with masks, with distancing, with improved ventilation in our schools, and screening measures (e.g. pooled testing).
The spread of Covid-19 (symptomatic and asymptomatic) will be most disruptive if a low percentage of students and staff wear masks (because it is optional), and if we test infrequently (or if many people opt out of testing). This combination of choices leads to a world where we have more, not less, disruption due to Covid-19. The Superintendent and school committee may be committing us to this path, which could yield significant disruption to our students' education and the greatest (economic) harm to our community.
The spread of Covid-19 will be least disruptive if families and children get vaccinated, wear masks, and we run frequent pooled tests of as many staff and students as possible. Currently, because the Superintendent and school committee have voted to make masks optional (a public health choice favoring faster/greater spread of Covid-19, greater disruption to student learning, and greater economic harm to our community), we cannot currently achieve this possible outcome.
I am not a lawyer. Lewiston Public Schools is currently choosing to disregard the recommendations of the state and federal government regarding how to return to school safely. They have done so without any rationale rooted in law, logic, or evidence. When Covid-19 begins to spread amongst staff and students, will this open the school to individual and class action lawsuits on behalf of sick students, families, and staff? There are schools across the nation who chose similarly, and they are now experiencing thousands of students in quarantine, with children hospitalized or experiencing "long Covid" (given the more virulent nature of the Delta strain). Will the Superintendent's choice to disregard health recommendations be demonstrable in a court of law as negligent or willfully harmful to the students of LPS?
I do not know. To find out, it suggests 1) the Superintendent and school committee must continue ignoring public health guidance; 2) Covid-19 spreads through our school population (I hope this does not happen); and 3) one or more lawsuits are brought forward naming the Superintendent, the school administration, and the school committee as defendents. This would come at a cost to us all, and suggests many poor choices were made before arriving here.
I would rather we don't find out.
(Even if masks are required, the law leaves room for religious and medical opt-outs. It is highly unlikely (I am not a lawyer) that requiring masks would be considered by any reasonable court to be a violation of Constitutional rights.)