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​​Masks in Schools: SC Ban Overturned

There are many people who live with long-term disabilities that create challenges for their day-to-day life. To ensure you have the same advantages as other people, schools, employers, and other public places are required to make reasonable accommodations for you, when possible.

Recently, South Carolina schools moved to end mask mandates, putting the decision into the hands of parents. Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit in response, stating it violated the rights of disabled students and a judge ruled in their favor. Our Aiken family employment law attorney explains more about the issue and why the SC ban was overturned.

Federal Judge Defies Governor And Rules Against Mask Ban

In September 2021, the AP News announced that a federal judge had overturned an order banning mandated face mask requirements at all South Carolina public schools. The ruling came in response to specific wording in the latest budget, approved the previous June. Backed by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and other GOP lawmakers prohibited mask mandates, stating that parents should be the only ones who get to decide whether their children should wear one.

While it may sound reasonable on the surface to let everyone decide for themselves whether face masks should be worn in school, groups of parents of disabled children banded together to express their concern that not requiring masks endangered their children and violated their rights. They claim that children whose conditions make them medically fragile and more likely to suffer ill-effects of COVID-19 were put at risk by not having a mask mandate in place. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took their side and challenged the mask ban in federal court.

It did not take the federal court long to respond. In overturning the mask ban, the judge in the case affirmed that wearing a mask was a reasonable accommodation to make for disabled students, and reversing the order was merely a matter of following federal anti-discrimination laws. The Governor’s office, however, vowed to continue fighting the issue.

What Are Reasonable Accommodations?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law in July of 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals based on disability status and provides important protections at school, work, and other public places. An important provision within the act involves making reasonable accommodations for disabled people, which involves providing adjustments or modifications to certain tasks or policies to ensure they have the same opportunities as non-disabled people. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • At school: Providing specialized support services, auxiliary aids (such as providing modified keyboards or assigning note-takers), adapting classroom environments and seating, and ensuring disability access to all school rooms and buildings.

  • At work: Providing job applications in braille, ensuring access to interview locations, modifying certain tasks, and utilizing adaptive tools to make the workplace easier to navigate.

  • In other public places: Allowing for sign language, braille, and assistive devices in places such as recreational facilities, and ensuring access for disabled individuals at entrances, exits, and in public restrooms.

Under the ADA, schools, employers, and business owners can be held legally liable for failing to provide accommodations for disabled individuals, providing those accommodations are reasonable in nature and do not create an undue hardship on business owners or others involved. In regards to overturning mask bans, the court found that requiring students to wear a mask over the course of a school day to protect other, more medically fragile students was not an unreasonable request.

What To Do When Your Rights As a Disabled Individual Are Violated

If you feel that your rights as a disabled person or the rights of someone you love have been violated either at school, work, or in other public places, it is important to talk to our Aiken family and employment law attorney right away. We can outline the legal options that are available. These typically include:

  • Filing a complaint against the individual or business: We can guide you in filing an ADA complaint through the U.S. Department of Justice. You will need to include specific details about the situation, any discrimination you experienced, and the types of reasonable accommodation you are requesting.

  • Filing a civil lawsuit against those involved: You may also be entitled to file a civil lawsuit against those who violate your rights as a disabled person and fail to conform to provisions in the ADA. As an experienced civil litigation attorney, we can guide you through the process, gathering evidence, filing the appropriate legal documents, and making effective arguments on your behalf in front of a judge or jury in court.

Both a lawsuit and an ADA complaint can help ensure you get the reasonable accommodations you require. With a lawsuit, you may also be entitled to compensation in the form of damages. This includes reimbursement for medical costs you may have incurred, lost wages, and other expenses, as well as compensation for any pain, suffering, humiliation, or other types of mental anguish you experienced due to being denied reasonable accommodations.

Have You Been Denied Reasonable Accommodations Or Faced Other Types of Discrimination? Contact Our Aiken Family and Employment Law Attorney Today

If you or a loved one is disabled, it is important to be aware that there are laws in place designed to protect your rights. To ensure you get the reasonable accommodations you are entitled to and to prevent other types of discrimination, get The Surasky Law Firm on your side. Call or contact our Aiken family and employment law attorney online and request a consultation to discuss how we can help you today.

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