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In-Depth: As MNPS requires masks, what qualifies as an exemption?

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Posted at 12:02 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 12:38:20-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Thousands of Metro Nashville Public Schools students will head back to school on Tuesday – and unless they have a medical exemption, they will be required to wear masks after last week’s MNPS Board vote.

In a form being sent home to parents, Metro Schools says all students will be required to wear masks throughout the day. However, the district says it recognizes that some may have a medical exemption, including “disabilities, medical conditions, or mental health conditions,” that make it difficult to wear a face covering all day.

If that’s the case, parents can request a “modification” to the district’s mask protocol, but they will have to provide documentation from a board-certified medical provider that includes a suggested modification.

The district said families will meet with school officials to develop a plan to “honor an approved request while protecting other students and their health and safety.”


Some of the approved modifications include:

  • Wearing a clear face shield
  • Assigned seating that’s “respectful of other students and teacher safety, socially distanced, with effort not to isolate”
  • Virtual learning through a remote setting

WHAT IF A STUDENT REFUSES TO WEAR A MASK?

If a student refuses to wear a mask or maintain social distancing guidelines, they face potential conduct violations, including reckless endangerment. MNPS has released a guide for implementing and enforcing COVID protocols for 2021-22 school year.

For the first offense, the district says there would be a conference with the student, “emphasizing the safety protocols of COVID-19.” For the second offense, the student’s parent or guardian would be brought in for a conference on COVID protocols.

The third offense would be categorized as “Noncompliance With an Administrative Directive or an Assigned Disciplinary Response,” which means in some cases, middle and high school students could face either in-school of out-of-school suspension.

The fourth offense could invoke Code 420: Reckless Endangerment – and that could lead to suspension or expulsion, depending on the severity of the case. The district said the “intentional exchange of bodily fluids (coughing, sneezing)” could result in an initial use of reckless endangerment.

According to MNPS, expulsion is a "measure of last resort." Prior to expulsion, all of the following factors must be considered:
  • "the student's age, health, disability, decision-making ability and prior intervention history"
  • "the student's willingness to repair the harm"
  • "the seriousness of the act"
  • "the harm caused or the potential to cause harm, including any injuries caused"
  • "the extent of actual disruption to the learning environment"
  • "whether the act was intentional"


MNPS said reckless endangerment could also be defined as:

  • “Intentional exchange of bodily fluids (coughing, sneezing)”
  • “Refusing to wear mask”
  • “Refusing to maintain social distancing guidelines”
  • “Leaving designated area”

READ MORE: MNPS DISCIPLINE TABLES

As for absences, whether it is excused or unexcused would be determined by the reason given by a parent or guardian as to why their student isn’t able to attend for a given day. Click here to read more about MNPS' attendance policy and what's considered an excused absence.

Last Thursday, the Metro Nashville Board of Education approved a motion to require masks indoors and on buses at the start of the 2021-22 school year. Earlier that week, House Speaker Cameron Sexton announced that he would ask Gov. Bill Lee to call a special session if school districts opt to require masks.