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Iron County school board member claims exemptions to school mask mandate; president says otherwise

Kosovo Virus Outbreak Schools
Posted at 4:00 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 18:11:13-04

A board member of the Iron County School District says he and others have found exemptions within Utah's mask mandate for K-12 students, but officials say the district's policy will not change.

Dave Staheli posted on Facebook that he, along with some local attorneys and "good citizens," had studied the public health order issued by the state for exemptions to the mandate.

While the statewide mask requirement expired on April 10, students were still required to wear them in school. Staheli's post claims to have found multiple exemptions. He wrote:

"1. Parents can exempt their children from wearing a face mask for “a medical condition, a mental condition, or an intellectual or developmental disability that prevents them from wearing a face mask.
"2. The Health Order allows a School to choose whether they will require a “medical directive” from a medical professional for a “medical condition” only. This type of medical directive does not require medical information about your child’s medical condition.
"3. The School does not have authority to require any more than a parental directive for a “mental condition, or an intellectual or developmental disability”.
"4. The School does not have the authority to require any medical, mental, intellectual or developmental information about your child and cannot enter any data about your child’s mask exemption into your child’s student records."

Michelle Lambert, the president of the school board, said Staheli's statements do not reflect the position of district administration and the board as a whole.

"ICSD legal counsel has confirmed that the district’s current mask requirements are legal and in keeping with the public health order," she wrote in an email to FOX 13. "I am proud of the fact that Iron County Schools have remained open five days a week for the entire 20-21 school year. I believe the protocols which have been in place all year have been proven to work and should remain in place through the end of the year."

She added: "Proponents of the proposed changes believe they have found a loophole in the public health order, but I do not believe the changes are in keeping with the intent of the order."

District spokeswoman Karen Johnson also responded, saying: "At this point, the Iron County School District is following HO 2021-2 and Governor Cox's mandate to continue wearing masks in schools."

Lambert also noted that to her knowledge, there has been no communication about these proposed changes between the board and other entities, such as the governor's office, the state school board, the Southwest Health Department or the Utah Department of Health.