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Can students opt out of wearing masks in Salt Lake Co. schools?

Posted at 5:13 PM, Jan 10, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — The debate over the recent mask mandate continues and parents are split over guidance which gives parents across Salt Lake County schools an option to opt out of masking their kids.

READ: Teacher call outs spike in Salt Lake County school districts

FOX 13 talked to parents who were afraid to talk on-camera because the subject is so contentious. Many parents circulated a screenshot of an email to parents of the Jordan School District, giving them the option to fill out a mask exemption form.

District spokesperson Sandra Riesgraf wanted to make clear that the guidance was for all county schools, and not something they crafted independently.

The district wanted to be transparent with parents regarding exemptions according to the order, saying:

Our practices are fully aligned with the spirit and intent of the health order which gives parents the opportunity to opt their student out of the mask requirement with one of three options:

  • Student cannot put on or remove mask without assistance
  • A medical condition, mental condition or developmental disability
  • IEP or Section 504 Accommodation

Salt Lake County Council Chairwoman Laurie Stringham said Sunday that no doctors' notes were required by the order to get exemptions, and that parents should notify their school if their child needed one.

WATCH: Salt Lake County offering free respirator masks as new mandate takes effect

Many parents are celebrating this option, as historically mask exemptions have been hard to obtain.

Corinne Johnson with Utah Parents United, a parent advocacy organization, said it's a decision that needs to be made by parents.

“Parents know their children the best. If you want to mask your child and you feel that is the safest option for your child, you should have the ability to do that. We support parents in that. But if you’re a parent who sees your child is being harmed from a mask, you want to make sure you can protect your child as well," said Johnson.

FOX 13 also reached out to the Salt Lake County Health Department for clarity, which replied"

"Salt Lake County Health Department encourages schools to implement the respirator order in the spirit it was intended: to help prevent transmission of COVID by requiring everyone in the school—except those with an exemption listed in the order—to wear respirators. With school cases rising and more schools meeting or approaching the test-to-stay threshold each day, this is potentially our last chance to keep kids in in-person learning—and to keep our businesses thriving.”

Part of the reason the county decided to bypass a doctor’s note for a mask exemption is they believe it would have placed undue burden on the healthcare system which is already overwhelmed.

Jordan School District is providing N95 masks to students who may need one.