ACLU: Parents, Virginia settle lawsuit on school masking accommodations
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia is settling a lawsuit regarding masking in public schools.
The ACLU of Virginia announced Monday, December 12: Today the Commonwealth of Virginia affirmed that peer masking in Virginia public schools is a reasonable modification for students with disabilities that put them at severe risk if they contract COVID-19 as part of a settlement in the Seaman et al. vs. Commonwealth of Virginia et al.
Parents of a dozen students with disabilities filed a federal lawsuit in February, challenging Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order 2 and Senate Bill 739, which stripped school districts of the ability to require community masking as a COVID-19 prevention measure.
Monday’s settlement clarifies that schools must make accommodations under federal disability law if a child with a disability requires peer and teacher masking. The settlement requires the Virginia Department of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to send guidance to school districts and post that guidance on the COVID-19 Special Education Resources webpage.
“The law, and the guidance from the Virginia Department of Education ensures that students with disabilities throughout Virginia can attend school safely,” Washington Lawyers’ Committee Deputy Legal Director Kaitlin Banner said.
“This pandemic has been hard on everyone. It’s been especially hard for medically complex children, children with disabilities, and those high risk for COVID-19. This settlement is a step toward righting a wrong. Children like mine should not be told they cannot participate safely in school or that they have to be segregated. They have a right to the same education as every other child,” Tasha Nelson, a plaintiff parent, said.
The settlement goes into effect immediately and remains in effect as long as any of the plaintiff students attend a Virginia public school.
“We’re hopeful that every school in Virginia will view this settlement as a sign that they should make similar accommodations for their students, even if they are not part of the case,” ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Eden Heilman said.
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