To The Editor:

In the battle over masks in our local school districts, our most vulnerable students are being left behind. Students with disabilities are being excluded from a safe and accessible learning environment by local districts’ continued refusal to implement a mask requirement for all students and staff, per CDC guidelines.

By refusing to implement a mask requirement for all students and staff, school districts unlawfully exclude students from in-person education based on their disabilities. This conduct constitutes discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As policymakers for their districts, local boards of education have the authority and obligation to ensure their districts’ compliance with federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on disability.

I ask that all local school districts immediately adopt policies and practices consistent with CDC guidelines so that students with disabilities and medical vulnerabilities can access the in-person education to which they are entitled under federal law.

In Washington, we watch as board members cater to a special interest group, show up for board meetings unprepared (one recently claimed she had not seen any data about masks), and show a complete lack of concern for their students who are too young to be vaccinated, medically vulnerable, or have high-risk family members at home. We’ve watched as they thank our school nurses and appreciate them for the extra burden they are carrying because of their failure to implement a mask requirement. We watch as members of our board visit schools unmasked, unable to even lead by example.

This must stop now. We need ethical leaders in our schools who follow science, lead by example, and look out for the best interest of all children.

Jennifer Cortner