Majority of those who applied for a school mask exemption were approved at Hampton Roads
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The majority of requests for exemptions or “accommodation” from the Virginia mask mandate in schools have been granted in Hampton Roads.
According to reports from the Hampton, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Newport News school districts, more than 400 teachers, staff and students have submitted requests to be allowed to remove face masks at K-12 schools. The majority of requests came from Virginia Beach.
Of this number, approximately 375 were accepted, mainly for medical reasons.
Norfolk Public Schools did not provide information about the exemption before the deadline. A spokesperson for Portsmouth Public Schools said the district had not received any requests from staff members for exemptions from wearing masks and had no information on the students. The Suffolk superintendent declined to share the figures because “the small number of such people would be easily identifiable”.
To receive a medical exemption, most school districts have required the advice of a physician. For religious accommodation, the process was different.
In Chesapeake, the request for a religious exemption is sent to a child’s building manager and must state “the sincere religious principles or beliefs to which they adhere and explain why their religious principles or beliefs conflict with wearing a mask. “.
“The granting of mask accommodations is done by a team from our Leadership and Academic Support Division. This division includes, among other departments, the Department of Health Services and the Department of Safety and Security, ”said Christopher Vail, communications director for Chesapeake Public Schools. “Reasons for possible refusals include missing or incomplete applications, the use of an incorrect form or the inability to determine based on the information provided. “
Some parents who came to the Chesapeake school board meeting on Monday night criticized the district for not complying with the requests.
“Dr. Cotton, [the Chesapeake School Superintendent] the religious exemption form in which you ask parents to list tenants of their faith is unconstitutional, ”said Kim Scott, a parent of Chesapeake students.
However, Brad Jacob, professor of law at Regent University, said that when it comes to the US Constitution, it is not sure that this is the case.
“The question of religious freedom is difficult because the Supreme Court really took the breath away from the free exercise clause 30 years ago,” said Jacob. “Are there any religions that say you can’t wear masks?
The free exercise clause protects the right of citizens to practice a religion as long as it does not go against an “overriding” interest of the government, according to federal justice.
At this point, Jacob is not sure whether a court has ruled whether the mask warrants meet that threshold.
“The system is trying to catch up, like in so many things. But we really don’t see it all playing out, ”said Jacob.
In the case of the Chesapeake schools, they allow people to resubmit applications if they are refused first.
Medically, medical experts at The King’s Daughters Children’s Hospital said that “medical exemptions from wearing a mask should be very rare,” and developmental and behavioral conditions that can make wearing a mask. a dangerous mask include:
• Developmental delays
• Limited physical mobility
• Severe autism
• Structural abnormalities of the head or neck, however, some of these children may be able to bear
bandana style coverings.
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