DCSD Update Regarding Its Masking Requirements

DCSD Update Regarding Its Masking Requirements
Posted on 10/20/2021

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October 20, 2021

Dear Douglas County School District Families and Staff,

I hope you and your family are enjoying fall break.

I am writing to update you on the Douglas County School District’s mask requirements for students and staff following the newly formed Douglas County Board of Health’s recent Public Health Order (“PHO”), which allows parents to exempt their children from the District’s mask requirement for physical and/or mental health reasons. Further, the PHO prevents the District, in certain circumstances, from requesting quarantines of asymptomatic students and staff exposed or potentially exposed to known COVID-19 positive cases.

The PHO ignores the guidance of academic, public health, and pediatric experts, and we do not believe it is in the best interest of students. For those children with disabilities, chronic illnesses, respiratory issues, and other high-risk health conditions, implementation of Douglas County Health Department’s PHO puts these children at risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe illness and threatening their ability to learn in person.

In our view, no parent should be forced to choose between sending their child to school and risking their child’s health, and no family should have to fear that their child may face life-threatening illness just to access their right to a great education.

Today, the School District and a number of parents and guardians of at-risk students filed a legal complaint against the Douglas County Board of Health to uphold the District’s previous mask requirements that all students and staff in our PK-12 schools wear face coverings, except for limited, medically necessary exceptions. We have asked the Court to block enforcement of the Douglas County Health Department’s PHO, which violates the federal civil rights of our most vulnerable students by illegally preventing the District from utilizing critical health measures to help stem transmission of the virus and enable those students to access their public education safely and equally. You can read more about the lawsuit in our press release here, which also includes a link to the full complaint.

This decision was not an easy one. We have heard from many parents who oppose mask requirements and are concerned about their children wearing masks in school all day. We understand these concerns, and we all hope for an end to this pandemic. We’re all seeking a return to normalcy. We know that many families who oppose masking in classrooms just want what’s best for their children. We understand that masking may cause frustration in our community.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to pose a real threat. Recent data shows us that the number of newly reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19 have all increased sharply across Colorado, including in Douglas County. Moreover, the test positivity rate in Douglas County is high, suggesting that cases may be undercounted. The virus is still very much with us and has the capacity to significantly disrupt learning.

The risk posed by COVID-19 is significantly multiplied for families and students with certain disabilities and medical conditions. The District serves thousands of students in our district with health conditions putting them at greater risk of experiencing severe illness if they contract COVID-19, including those with asthma, diabetes, compromised immune systems, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, severe respiratory conditions, seizure disorders, heart conditions, and more. Further, over 700 students in the District have significant support needs, meaning they require intensive support in a special setting in order to fully benefit from their educational programming. Maintaining a safe, in-person learning environment is of paramount importance to these students, as remote educational programming is not as effective for them.

While masks may be a contentious issue, an elimination of face coverings in our classrooms puts many of our students at far higher risk of contracting the virus or potentially becoming severely ill. That risk is compounded if we cannot ask students exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine consistent with CDPHE and TCHD guidance. It also puts families of medically at-risk students in the unfortunate position of having to decide whether to keep their children home for fear that their child may be infected with the virus or send them to school and potentially risk their exposure to an infectious disease that could cause them serious harm. No parent should have to make that choice.

Importantly, we also have a legal obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide students with disabilities with equal access to their public education. Our medically at-risk students with disabilities require accommodations in the form of universal masking and targeted quarantining to access their education safely and equally, and the PHO needlessly prevents us from providing those necessary accommodations.

As a school district, we strive to do everything possible to protect the health, safety, and learning of every single child. While many children remain ineligible for the vaccine, masks provide a critical layer of protection to protect all children and families – especially the most vulnerable. The scientific community is in broad agreement on mask requirements. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) all recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, and students in schools to make in-person learning safe and possible. It is an important – and temporary – safety measure.

Ultimately, the goal of this legal step is to ensure that all our students can continue learning in person while eligibility for vaccines is still limited and community spread of COVID-19 within Douglas County remains high.

We want to emphasize that masks are a temporary measure, and universal masking is a critical part of our work to continue offering in-person learning opportunities to all our students – including those with disabilities and underlying medical conditions. We are closely monitoring developments for the mitigation of COVID-19 in our schools. We believe that universal masking, which is supported almost universally by pedagogical and medical experts, is an important temporary step to provide a layer of protection.

We will continue to keep our community updated on the developments to this legal case. If there are any changes to our mask requirements, we will be in touch with guidance before students return to schools next week.

I am truly grateful for the support and cooperation of our DCSD community and appreciate your patience as we continue to navigate the complexities posed by this pandemic.


Corey Wise
Douglas County School District

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In compliance with Titles VI & VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, and Colorado law, the Douglas County School District RE-1 does not unlawfully discriminate against otherwise qualified students, employees, applicants for employment, or members of the public on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services. Discrimination against employees and applicants for employment based on age, genetic information, and conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth is also prohibited in accordance with state and/or federal law. Complaint procedures have been established for students, parents, employees, and members of the public. The School District's Compliance Officer and Title IX Coordinator to address complaints alleging sexual harassment under Title IX is Aaron Henderson, 620 Wilcox Street, Castle Rock, Colorado, complianceofficer@dcsdk12.org, 720-433-1083.

Outside Agencies

Complaints regarding violations of Title VI, (race, national origin), Title IX (sex, gender), Section 504/ADA (handicap or disability), may be filed directly with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 1244 North Speer Blvd., Suite 310, Denver, CO 80204. Complaints regarding violations of Title VII (employment) and the ADEA (prohibiting age discrimination in employment) may be filed directly with the Federal Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 303 E. 17th Ave., Suite 510, Denver, CO 80202, or the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 1560 Broadway, Suite 1050, Denver, CO 80202.