Mask Exemption Accommodation

Requesting student mask exemption accommodation for the 2021-22 school year 

The Washington State Department of Health has required that every person in Washington wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are in public places, with very few exceptions. Read the Washington State Secretary of Health Order.

For students, that means each child ages five and older is required to wear a face covering when at school or on school transportation unless the student has a medical condition, mental health condition, developmental or cognitive condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. Children who are two, three, or four years old are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering while supervised by an adult. 

To Request Accommodation 

In order to receive an accommodation, a student must be eligible for either a “Section 504 plan” under the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

Before a student can be deemed eligible, an initial evaluation, designed to assess all suspected areas of need, must be conducted prior to a school team considering initial eligibility. 

Students who are not currently eligible under the IDEA or Section 504, but whose families believe they need an exemption, are encouraged to provide medical documentation or have your child’s health care provider complete the attached Mask Exemption Form. 

Students Without Current 504 Plan or IEP

If your student does not currently have a 504 plan or IEP:

Seattle Public Schools has adopted Policy 2162 and Superintendent Procedure 2162SP governing evaluation, eligibility, and other procedures under Section 504. To be protected under Section 504, a student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a record of such an impairment, or be regarded as having such an impairment. 

Families who believe their student needs a mask exemption, should complete a referral form (504-2) and send to the school’s 504 Building Coordinator and are also encouraged to provide any medical documentation or a Mask Exemption Form. 

The school’s 504 Building Coordinator will review referrals to determine if an evaluation is appropriate. If an evaluation appears to be necessary, the district will obtain written consent from the student’s family to perform an evaluation and/or gather additional information and will provide the family with a written statement of their rights. If the family declines an initial evaluation, the district will not be required to provide the requested accommodation. If the team determines that an evaluation is not necessary, written notice will be given to the family. 

If a student is determined to be eligible under Section 504 due to a disability, the district will develop a written 504 plan with participation by the family documenting any reasonable accommodations necessary for the student to achieve meaningful access to education, potentially including an exemption from the face covering requirement.

Students with IEP

If your student already has an IEP: 

Students with disabilities who qualify for special education under the IDEA may receive accommodations and modifications to their education programs as part of their IEPs, if determined appropriate by the student’s IEP team. 

For medical accommodations, this is usually done through the student’s health plan. A student or parent requesting the accommodation to not wear a mask should contact their case manager.  

When Classmates Have a Mask Exemption

What if my student is in a classroom with a student who has a mask exemption? 

There may be circumstance in which student(s) in your child’s school may be medically exempt from wearing a mask or face covering. In these unique circumstances, additional safeguards will be put in place to protect students and staff.

Additional measures will depend on the unique circumstances of the student’s need, health or disability-related concerns, and classroom environment, but may include: 

  • The Department of Health states that in rare circumstances when a cloth face covering cannot be worn, students and staff may use alternatives, such as face shields. If used, face shields should extend below the chin, wrap around to the ears, and have no gap at the forehead. 
  • Using cloth extensions that can be attached to a student’s face shield. 
  • Increasing focus on social distancing. 
  • Opening of classroom windows. 
  • Adding portable HEPA filters in selected locations. 
  • Increasing frequency of cleaning surfaces. 
  • Increasing hand washing frequency. 
  • Providing services in areas that maximize airflow, such as near an open window. 
  • Reducing the number of students in the classroom. 
  • Alternating schedules. 
  • Providing related services to an individual instead of in a group setting. 

Questions

If you have any questions about the mask exemption process, please contact:  

  • 504coordinator@seattleschools.org for general education and students with current 504 Civil Rights Protections. 
  • Your student’s case manager if they currently have an IEP. 

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