On behalf of the Bedford Area School District, we respectfully write the following letter knowing it is possibly one of the most controversial issues facing parents, students, and schools in decades. For some, the mask mandate is welcomed as Covid-19 has affected them greatly in the worst possible way such as the death of a loved one and/or their own negative experience with the virus. For others, the mask mandate represents a safety measure to protect their children from a potentially life threatening or life-altering illness. For another large group, the mask mandate represents a step backward after a summer of optimism and is viewed as a mere nuisance. Lastly, for others the mask mandate is considered immoral, possibly illegal, and should be a parent choice. The Bedford Area School District understands the strong feelings associated with Covid and mask mandates.
We listen respectfully to your individual opinions. Frankly, many in our own organization share strong and diverse opinions not only regarding Covid-19, but numerous other laws, court decisions, mandates, codes, statutes or whatever name is associated with the rules governing our country. In this case, the district questioned the enforceability of the mask mandate with our solicitors and they advised we are required to enforce the mandate. Additionally, we have received communication from numerous other sources explaining the district’s duty to enforce the mask mandate. Therefore, the Bedford Area School District has no choice but to comply.
We recognize some wish we would ignore this mandate and take a strong position against it. The State is clear we would be committing a crime with potential criminal and liability penalties. We do not have the option to pick and choose what laws and mandates we follow and enforce. Refusal is not a viable option and it honestly would go against the moral fiber of your district leadership. We care greatly for our students, district, and community. We serve the community with complete commitment, losing countless hours of sleep when our community suffers and spending enormous amounts of energy helping students and families realize their future dreams. Please remember as you assess this situation, our hearts are with the community and the mandate was not a local decision.
Given our duty to enforce the mandate, the Bedford Area School District wishes to remove students from any conflict by providing parents with options prior to when the mandate goes into effect on Tuesdays, September 7th, 2021. Again to remove students from conflict, we ask parents to select an option and/or resolve their potential conflicts prior to Tuesday. The options are as follows:
- Parents and students can elect to follow the mask mandate.
- Parents can seek an exemption:
- For parents of students with existing IEPs or 504s with documented medical conditions, please contact your building administration to state your exemption.
- For parents of students without documented conditions, parents can assert an exemption per the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s order, Section 3. This assertion can be complex and could result in unintended consequences. For example, if a parent of a football player asserts a respiratory condition without any explanation about how the condition affects the student, the district will request additional medical documentation before the student can return to football in order to avoid liability and negligence since the district is now aware of a medical condition. For your convenience, the district has attached a model affidavit to facilitate this process and limit unintended consequences. Please note this affidavit must be notarized.
- Parents can elect one of the district’s alternative approaches to education while the mask mandate is in effect.
- The district has several cyber options available to parents and students. If you wish to elect such an option schedule an appointment with your building administration.
If parents and/or students wish to discuss other options, please schedule an appointment with your building administration. We will listen respectfully and consider if your individual option is viable. Please know, ignoring the mandate and sending your student to school in protest of the mask mandate is not an option. At this time, we have been advised to treat any refusal to comply with the mandate like a dress code violation using progressive discipline. Therefore, please resolve any conflicts with the district prior to the required implementation date. Moreover, the district will grant a time extension to any parents requesting additional time to consider their options. If necessary, please contact your building administration and request some days for your student to miss school while you consider your options.
In closing, we sincerely ask our parents and community to remember we are members of the community who serve students diligently. We celebrate, suffer, worry, and dream about our community as life ebbs and flows. This too will pass. We are here to work with you to the best of our abilities within the legal parameters. We look forward to helping your children realize their dreams in preparation for better days in the future.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
County of Bedford
I, ______________________________, the parent/guardian of _________________________, assert and affirm that each of the following statements is true and correct.
My Child attends BES/BMS/BHS (circle one) and is in the _______________ Grade.
My child is exempt from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s August 31, 2021 order requiring masks, under section 3 entitled Exceptions to Covering Requirement, subsection B. Wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability.
I recognize that although I have asserted subsection B of Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s order entitled Exceptions to Covering Requirement my child’s condition only inhibits them from wearing a mask and does not impact my child’s ability to participate in physical activities including but not limited to recess, physical education class, and school sponsored athletics and activities.
I will notify the Bedford Area School District immediately if my child’s condition changes and requires additional reasonable accommodations.
I, affirm the preceding statements are true and correct under penalty of law.
Signature: _____________________________________ Date: _________________________
Signed and sworn to (or affirmed) before me on ___________________________ (date)
by _______________________________________ (name(s) of individual(s) making statement.
Signature of notarial officer: __________________________________________
My commission expires: