The Ohio Department of Health last month mandated the use of facial coverings by K-12 students. The mandate came with several exceptions, including for those who were unable to wear masks due to health issues and religious exemptions.
Activist and parent Heather Groves said many school districts are making it exceedingly difficult to get an exemption, requiring evidence of personal beliefs, signatures from pastors or explanations of the various religious tenants that play into the decision In an interview with The Ohio Star, Groves who has been working with parents trying to get their child exempted from the rule said that “out of the last 100 people I’ve spoken too, three people have had their exemptions approved.”
In the cases in which students exemptions are being approved, Groves said students are being discriminated against.
“They’ll say you exemption is being approved, however, we have to force your child into remote learning or being segregated out,” Groves said.
Students with exemptions may be forced to eat alone in, be seated separately, dismissed early from classes, and not able to use the bus, according to Groves.
In an email obtained by The Star, parents were told by Clemont Northeastern High School that “if your children cannot wear a mask, a reasonable accommodation is online learning.”
Anna Local Schools emailed a parent saying that while they were not “questioning whether you have sincerely held religious beliefs.” That they were “having difficulty understanding [the parents] contention that your beliefs as a Catholic prevent your child from wearing a mask while at school, as he/she has been doing for the past week.”
Groves said school districts have no legal right to question the parents about their religious beliefs and that school districts had “no legal standing for to deny these exemptions.”
Groves went on to say she’d host a town hall regarding masks and the U.S., and Ohio Constitution with around 50 attendees. Groves said she is willing to take legal action, and the offers of “remote learning, or segregation from the rest of the class” as substitutes for in-person learning with proper mask exemptions is “not acceptable.”
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