CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — The Douglas County School District Board of Education voted to adopt a resolution to allow parents to choose whether their kids wear masks and prohibits the district from putting a vaccine mandate in place.
The board voted 4-3 to adopt the resolution.
It requires the district to mandate masks in some situations “to support individuals with unique conditions and circumstances” that “impacts the fewest number of other individuals as possible.”
The resolution also states "that in furtherance of the board’s respect for and support of personal autonomy and choice" that there will be no district policy requiring a universal vaccine mandate for staff or students. However, all students and staff must wear face masks on school buses per federal public health order.
Masking may be required in certain circumstances as an accommodation under the ADA, Section 504, so students, staff and volunteers should bring masks to school in case they need them.
The resolution took effect immediately after the board voted down an amendment to wait until January for it to go into effect.
For hours, parents and students provided public comment during the special meeting Tuesday evening. The board was expected to vote in favor of the resolution.
Some students expressed concern in lifting the mask mandate, saying it impacts kids staying in school and could hurt immunocompromised students. Other students said wearing the masks has affected their learning and has negatively impacted athletes.
Many parents asked the board to move forward with the new resolution, saying it should be up to parents to decide what is best for their children. Some parents were concerned it was too soon to lift the mask mandate and that the resolution will negatively impact the education for students who need to wear masks.
For some parents, like Brandi Bradley, the change is an outcome from the election where upset parents voted to insert new school board members.
"If you want to put your child in mask, feel free to put your child in mask. But if you don't, I think you should have that choice as a parent to do so," said Bradley, who helped to get the four new board members elected to council. "Parents should have the final decision in the health of our children."
But others, like Kate Gould, disagree. She said that the new mandate will hurt her son, who has cystic fibrosis. She said the accommodations offered will effectively segregate her child from the school population.
"This is not about protecting kids. This is about a political ideology," Gould said. "It's important that (my son) be protected and also that he have equal access to in-person public education."
The debate comes under the newly elected board who ran on the promise of moving to parent choice in masking.
It also comes on the heels of a federal lawsuit filed against the Douglas County Board of Health over their public health order, which allowed parents to opt their children out of the district’s mask requirements without a doctor’s note. The lawsuit was filed by the Douglas County School District and nine students arguing that the district could potentially violate federal civil rights law under the public health order.
After issuing a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the public health order, the board of health modified the order to exempt the district and a federal judge then dismissed the lawsuit.
The board did vote to revise the board policy JLCC Communicable Diseases and Long-Term Illnesses, which removed requirements to follow Tri-County Health Department guidelines. Instead, the policy says the Douglas County School District will exercise control over district operations in regards to communicable diseases directed by the school board through the superintendent in consultation with the Douglas County Health Board. The revision initially removed the language that the district would follow guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment from the policy, but the board chose to amend the revision to consult with CDPHE and other agencies as appropriate.
This story is developing and will be updated.