ALSEA, Oregon (AP) – An Oregon school principal advises parents that they can use federal disability law to stop their children from wearing masks. A pastor in a California mega-church offers religious exemptions for anyone who has moral conflicts over vaccination requirements.
And the Louisiana Attorney General posted sample letters on his office’s Facebook page for those trying to circumvent the governor’s masking rules.
In the United States, religious figures, doctors, officials and other community leaders are trying to help people circumvent COVID-19 precautions.
While proponents of these workarounds say they look after child health and parental rights, others say such strategies are dishonest and irresponsible and could undermine efforts to roll back the highly contagious Delta variant.
Mask and vaccine requirements vary from state to state, but often allow exceptions for specific medical conditions or religious or philosophical objections.
In Oregon, Superintendent Marc Thielman of the rural Alsea School District told parents they can bypass the governor’s school mask requirement by applying for housing for their children under federal disability law.
Thielman said he got the idea after the governor’s mandate sparked “great, great opposition” from his parents.
“The majority of my parents are skeptical and no longer believe what they’re being told” about COVID-19, said Thielman, whose district in the state’s coastal mountains begins class on Monday. “The majority of my parents say: ‘Are there options?'”
In a letter to educators last week, Democratic Governor Kate Brown said she was shocked that Thielman is undermining her policies by “telling students to lie” because they have a disability.
Brown has mandated masks in schools and vaccinations for all school staff amid a surge in infections afflicting Oregon. The state broke its record for COVID-19 hospital stays day in and day out, and cases in children have increased dramatically.
Thielman, who plans to run for governor next year if Brown cannot be re-elected due to tenure restrictions, said he was not an anti-mask but was sensitive to parents’ concerns that face coverings in children have anxiety and anxiety Headache.
In some cases, he said, these issues warrant an exemption under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 because they hinder learning.
But Laurie VanderPloeg, deputy chief executive of the Council for Exceptional Children, a advocacy group, warned that federal law does not allow children to be masked just because they asked.
According to the law, school districts would have to go through a formal process to determine if a child actually had a particular mental or physical disability, such as B. a respiratory disease that would warrant an exception to the mask rule.
In Kansas, the Spring Hill School Board allows parents to apply for a medical or mental exemption from the county requirement that elementary school students must mask themselves. You don’t need a doctor to sign out.
Board member Ali Seeling said the idea is to give parents “the freedom to make health choices for their own children”.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican who trains regularly with Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, published sample letters that would enable parents to request a philosophical or religious exemption from Edwards’ mask rule in schools – or from compulsory vaccination, enact if available.
The letters were shared by GOP lawmakers and thousands of others.
“Louisiana is not ruled by a dictatorship. The question is, “Who makes the choice of health care for you and your child?” In a free society, the answer is the citizen – not the state, ”Landry wrote on Facebook.
Edwards accused the attorney general of creating confusion and defended his face covering policy.
“By taking these measures – and ignoring those who do not want to acknowledge the current crisis – we can keep our children in school this year and protect them,” said the governor.
In California, the state medical association is investigating a doctor who critics say is handing out dozen of mask exemptions for children in one sentence in an attempt to circumvent the statewide school mask requirement.
Dr. Michael Huang, who has a practice in Roseville, a suburb of Sacramento, declined to answer questions from The Associated Press, but told other news outlets that he is investigating every child and making appropriate exceptions. The California Medical Association issued a statement condemning “rogue doctors” who sell “fake” exceptions.
In a neighboring suburb, Pastor Greg Fairrington of Rocklins Destiny Christian Church has issued at least 3,000 religious exemptions for people objecting to the vaccine, which is becoming mandatory in more and more places in California.
He said in a statement that his church has received thousands of calls from doctors, nurses, teachers and first responders who are afraid of losing their jobs for not wanting to be vaccinated. His office declined to share the letter of exemption.
“We are not opposed to vaccination,” he said. “At the same time, we believe in freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The vaccine represents a morally compromising situation for many believers. “
Health experts like Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco, warned that such strategies would create confusion about masks and vaccinations.
The virus is “looking for breaks in the system”, he said, “and we have many breaks in the system”.
Oregon-based Jenny Jonak, who has an 11-year-old daughter with autism and health issues that make her more susceptible to COVID-19, said wearing masks was a “very minor inconvenience” to protect students at risk.
“If a child really has a real reason to have a breathing or breathing problem, then that should be respected,” she said. “But if not, then I don’t know what we’re teaching our kids if we’re basically teaching them to think the rules should be as simple as wearing a mask.”
Har reported from San Francisco and Cline from Portland, Oregon. Associate press writers Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas contributed to this report.
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