Garrison Schools and Masks: a day of reckoning

As the Garrison School board gets ready to have a meeting to discuss masks in the school there are questions that should be asked and answered. I’ve listed a few of the basic ones here.

Let’s get this first big one out of the way, can the school board create policy requiring students to wear masks? Currently, the answer is a resounding, yes they can. Recent legislation HB 1323 has been passed that restricts “A statewide elected official or the state health officer…” from mandating masks be worn. Love it or hate it, this language has left the ability of local boards to mandate that masks be worn, in place.

Another question that is ripe for discussion is, if the school is told that a student is required to quarantine from the Health Department and the school ignores it, what is the penalty to the school? NDCC section23-07-16 states no principal, superintendent, or teacher of any school, and no parent or guardian of any minor child, may permit any child having any significant contagious or infectious disease, or any child residing in any house in which any such disease exists or has recently existed, to attend any public or private school until permitted to do so under the regulations of the local board of health. The penalty for violating this section is stated in NDCC section 23-07-21. Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person [violating it] is guilty of an infraction. Not exactly high stakes, but a violation of law just the same.

The risk of the person failing to follow quarantine guidelines is significantly higher. NDCC 23-07.6-02 paragraph 3 defines the penalty for not obeying a quarantine order to be a class B misdemeanor.

The meeting to be held on May 3rd is geared mainly to discuss students having to wear masks. But, the discussion is much deeper. The school board has the interest of keeping the school open. They also have the responsibility to keep the school safe for students and staff. The question comes down to whether the masks are necessary. Some people have commented that the board is acting like dictators by requiring the masks. Some think they’re saving students and citizens alike from illness.

I believe it will come down to a community standards issue. Some will believe that the masks are needed for safety and that it is worth the loss of freedom. Others will believe that masks are utterly useless and that being forced to wear a mask is an infringement of personal liberty. I believe the board should make policies consistent with the will of the citizens of the school district. But guessing what direction that will leans in Garrison is a tough one. Either way you slice it, its gonna be an interesting meeting.

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