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504, ADA, IDEA and Masks

On Behalf of | Aug 20, 2021 | 504, IDEA |

We do a great deal of ADA/504 work for students from kindergarten through graduate school and have received dozens of calls from prospective clients. But we’ve only litigated one case, and there’s a reason for that: getting a doctor to say that a person cannot wear a mask in a classroom is not easy.

Numerous clients have asked for a reasonable accommodation for themselves or their kids to not wear a mask. But not every disability will qualify a person to be exempted from wearing a mask. It normally requires some kind of respiratory condition or mental health issue.

The one case I litigated was a case against the Boulder Valley School District in which they wanted a severely autistic child to wear a mask. Sensory-processing issues often accompany autism, and this kid absolutely could not tolerate a mask being on his face. No matter what anyone tried, he would rip off he mask and emotionally escalate within five seconds of the mask on his face. His doctor provided a note to the school district. But BVSD stupidly continued to insist that he wear a mask and wouldn’t allow him to attend school in-person unless he did. We filed suit, and eventually they relented.

But that’s basically the way to get an ADA/504 accommodation. It’s case by case. No class action would work, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to not stop Indiana University from moving forward with a vaccine mandate for its students.