LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As school districts across Kentucky make their own masking policies, the ACLU of Kentucky is reminding school leaders of their obligation under federal law.
In a letter to school districts and superintendents, ACLU lawyers are calling for schools to protect kids who have underlying conditions that make them susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19.
"As long as there are students in your school district who have higher risk for severe illness or even death due to COVID-19, any policy that differs from the existing mask mandate would effectively exclude these students from public schools, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act," the letter reads.
The pandemic does not absolve schools from following and complying with the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act," said Corey Shapiro, the legal director for ACLU of Kentucky.
Shapiro explains that schools cannot unnecessarily exclude or segregate students who are protected by federal disability laws. Since the CDC and other medical organization recommend universal masking, Shapiro says masks are reasonable accommodation.
"If a student requires reasonable accommodation to be in an environment where there's universal masking, that's something that the federal law protects their right to have," said Shapiro.
The majority of Kentucky's school districts have decided to stick with masking. According to the Kentucky School Boards Association, as of Wednesday afternoon, 71% of Kentucky's 171 school districts have announced they will continue to require masks.
But for those that haven't made a decision yet or have decided against masks, the ACLU says: protect the students.
"There may be loud, vocal resistance to having universal masking," said Shapiro. "But it's the most vulnerable that we need to be protecting and thinking about."