CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - "It's been rough," said Chandler parent Brittany McClain. Weird and difficult are two other words she used to describe the last year with two kids in elementary school within the Chandler Unified School District. This week, McClain was hopeful the district would opt not to mandate masks and disagrees with the district's updated rules.
The Governing Board voted 3-2 on Wednesday that it will continue its mandatory mask policy with a few tweaks that will start Monday, April 26. Masks will be mandatory for everyone indoors. For Pre-K through sixth grade, masks will be optional during outdoor recess. For grades 7 through 12, masks will be optional only during outdoor P.E. classes. Masks will still be required for indoor P.E. classes. When the new rules go into effect, there will be 22 days left in the school year.
"We don't think that there should be a complete removal of masks because I think that everyone has their own comfort level," McClain said. "And I think that if someone is uncomfortable, they can put a mask on their kids or chose the online option."
McClain says a group of others is discussing the legal rights of parents. She says some have reached out to three different attorneys to examine their parental bill of rights. Arizona's Family spoke to two legal experts about the issue.
"It would be hiring a lawyer, drawing up a complaint, seeking, filing an action, seeking an injunction from the court," said attorney Dan Barr. "And that would be expensive and unlikely to prevail."
He says parents have rights when it comes to issues like sex education where they can opt-out for religious reasons, but this is not one of them. "This is something of general application concerning the health and safety of everyone there," Barr said. He thinks some sort of legal action would be a waste of time and money.
"Their only choice is to probably either talk to the school board or go to court and see if they can get a judge to put in an order that allows their child not to wear a mask," said attorney Jonathan Frutkin with Radix Law.
Some parents at Great Hearts charter schools are worried about letting students go without masks.
He says, for the most part, courts let the schools run themselves. "I like to think of this as kind of the peanut rules," Frutkin said. "You know, in the last couple of decades, we've had a lot of rules by schools saying, you can't bring peanuts because some of the kids are really prone to allergies. And it turns out schools get to do a lot of things."
Dr. Shad Marvasti with the University of Arizona says under the most recent CDC guidelines, and regardless of community spread of COVID-19, masks are the first in line and should be required in all schools. Considering new strains that are disproportionately impacting younger adults and more children, among other factors, he thinks it's premature to let go of mask mandates. "We shouldn't allow any risk to be there, and I think even if it's minimal relative to adults, it's not zero," said Dr. Marvasti.
When it comes to medical exemptions to the mask mandate, a spokesperson with the Chandler Unified School District says they would consider a doctor-approved notice as they have all year.