Lawyer raises concerns about Lee County schools mask exemptions

Posted at 11:09 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 23:09:48-04

LEE COUNTY, FLA — The topic of mandatory masks in Lee County Schools created mixed emotions ad even caused a fight Monday.

According to the district's new 30-day mask policy, most will have to wear the face-covering indoors, while on campus, unless they fall under a few very specific exemption categories.

FOX 4 reviewed the district's policies with local lawyer and Florida Gulf Coast University professor, Pam Seay, who says the district's policy for medical exemptions could land them in legal trouble.

"If a child has a legitimate medical excuse for not wearing the mask and the school district does not accept it then it is incumbent upon the parents to challenge that," she said.

According to Seay, the policy as it stands has two major weak points:

Medical exemption / 504 students - Students who are requesting medical exemptions or Section 504 accommodations must provide District staff with documentation from a licensed health care provider (MD, DO or APRN) that the student has a medical, physical or psychological contraindication that requires an accommodation or prevents the student from being able to safely wear a face covering. Upon submission of the request, a team will be convened to consider whether the request is reasonable.

To start, she raised concerns about the portion of the policy, that outlines which healthcare providers the district would accept medical documentation from.

"They are excluding medical professionals who do have the authority and responsibility of evaluating people for their health issues," she said.

Second, is the last line of the policy that says a "team" will decide if the request for medical exemption is "reasonable."

"Who is this team that is going over and reviewing a doctor's excuse?" she said.

She says parents have a right to ask the district for more information about who is on the team that will review the exemption.

That said, Seay also understands concerns that some students who really don't need an exemption may get a doctor to give them one anyway, but she says the likelihood of that happening is probably small.

"If a medical professional is providing false information or inaccurate or wrong information they can lose their license for that," she said.

We have reached out to the school district to see how many medical exemptions have been granted so far this week and we are waiting to hear back.