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NSEA issues letter to area superintendents urging use of face masks in schools

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Posted at 1:38 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 14:38:20-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA) has sent a letter to all Nebraska superintendents urging them to require the use of face coverings by all staff and students in schools.

The letter mentions that ignoring that advice could lead to "significant legal liability."

Additionally, the NSEA notes that Nebraska's Sept. 1 DHM added educators to the list of essential employees, mandating that teachers and other school employees are exempt from certain quarantine requirements if they wear face coverings, among other things.

Students also no longer have to quarantine if face coverings are worn at the time of close contact with someone who tests positive or is symptomatic with COVID-19.

“Both exceptions clearly focus on the presence of face coverings,” said NSEA President Jenni Benson. “The science and data are clear: The spread of COVID-19 is minimized when everyone wears face coverings. School districts that do not require students to wear face coverings are unreasonably and needlessly exposing students and staff to COVID-19,” said Benson. “Lack of action in that regard also exposes the district to legal liability.”

Benson said that last month, the president of the insurance pool that provides liability coverage for various Nebraska school districts advised that the districts “should make sure they have a good COVID-19 plan and pay attention to health department directives.”

“School districts that do not require the use of face coverings for all students and staff, or that fail to notify employees when others in their work environment remain in the school building pursuant to DHM quarantine expectations, subject the district and those responsible, including administration and board members, to potentially significant legal liability," said Benson.

See the full letter below.

It has come to our attention that several school districts do not require the use of face coverings despite medical recommendations and current Directed Health Measures (DHM). The science and data are clear: The spread of COVID-19 is minimized when everyone wears face coverings. Educational workers are now exempted from certain quarantine requirements if they, among other things, wear face coverings. Students are also no longer required to quarantine if face coverings were used at the time of a close contact with someone who is symptomatic or positive with COVID-19. Both exceptions focus on the presence of face coverings.

School districts that do not require students to wear face coverings are unreasonably and needlessly exposing students and staff to COVID-19. It is the expectation of the NSEA that school districts require the use of face coverings by all staff and students.

The NSEA also expects school districts to inform employees when others in their work environment remain in the school building pursuant to the DHM quarantine exceptions. The NSEA considers notice of a quarantine exception and mandatory face coverings as a minimum standard of care necessary to satisfy every school district’s legal duty to protect employee health and safety.

Navigating our school communities through these unprecedented times requires science-based decision making and respect for personal health decisions. Employee confidence in the measures used to protect their health and safety will promote and secure the educational mission of our schools. School districts that do not require the use of face coverings for all students and staff or that fail to notify employees when others in their work environment remain in the school building pursuant to DHM quarantine expectations subject the district and those responsible, including administration and board members, to potentially significant legal liability.

As always, NSEA stands ready to assist and advocate for our public schools, students and staff. As we move into the winter months, I want to remind you that the NSEA Children’s Fund is available to help students in need. From providing funds for a warm coat, mittens or shoes to helping to meet more complex needs, NSEA’s Children’s Fund will work to ensure that the physical, social and emotional needs of students do not stand in the way of their success in school. There is never red tape or lengthy delay for NSEA members who want to use the fund to help a student. A simple toll-free call to the NSEA (800-742-0047) is usually all that is needed. All requests are handled discreetly and confidentially. More information can be found at https://www.nsea.org/childrensfund.

Thank you for the work you do in support of our public schools, students and staff. Working together and vigilantly following health and safety protocols will provide all Nebraskans with the best chance at beating this pandemic.

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