By Guy Page
The mother warned Nov. 4 by a Vermont state trooper to comply with the school district masking policy or face arrest or loss of child custody wants supportive Vermonters to show up at the next Lowell School Board meeting, Monday, Nov. 15.
“I am asking for support and for the community to back us up with the issue with our daughter and the school system. Please attend the Lowell School Board meeting scheduled for November 15,” Amy Desautels said in a social media post. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Lowell Graded School.
Yesterday’s edition of the Vermont Daily Chronicle depicted Andre “Mike” and Amy Desautels’ video-recorded encounter with State Trooper Sgt. Andrew Jensen at the school. As Supt. of Schools John Castle waited nearby, Jensen explained that per directions from Castle, their daughter could not remain in the school. He then told the couple:
“Your options are: Take your child, go home, fight this through the courts, through your lawyer, whatever. Option B: We escort your child out here, you refuse to take her home, and you refuse to leave. Therefore we place both of you under arrest for trespassing. Option C: you leave, but leave your child here, we contact DCF, possibly placing her in state custody for abandonment.”
The couple elected to take their daughter home. What yesterday’s story didn’t describe in detail is what led up to this encounter between two Vermont parents and a state trooper. In a social media post, Amy Desautels provides more background and context.
“For those of you who do not know what is going on – our daughter was having health issues wearing a mask. She is in 2nd grade. When school began in the fall we took her to school and explained to the principal what was going on. She said that she could not be there without a mask unless we had a doctor’s note stating such.
“So we took our daughter to the doctor, and he talked with her and examined her and determined that wearing a mask would be detrimental to her health and stated so on the note, which we gave to the principal. At that point they let her stay. But soon after that, we got a call from the school nurse saying that they needed a diagnosis on the doctor’s note, and asked if we would be willing to call the doctor to have him explain in detail why she couldn’t wear the mask. Without our permission she called the doctor to find out if he was legit and to ask what the diagnosis was for our daughter.
“Can you say NOT OK! Where did the doctor/patient confidentiality go!?
“He did not give her the answer she was looking for so the principal told us that we needed to get the doctor to write a diagnosis on the note or she couldn’t attend school. They kept her at school for (1-2 weeks) in the nurse’s office (no windows and a small room) all day, except for lunch (where all students are allowed mask free for about half an hour) and recess. They said later it was to give us time to get them what they needed.
“Then they told us we needed to put her on a 504 plan [for disabled students] in order to have a mask exemption. We were informed that the 504 plan was so that they could accommodate her or to make adaptations for her as needed. We were informed recently by someone outside of our school that if she was put on a 504 plan that we would have to get a diagnosis from the doctor. We did not agree to this as she did not need any special accommodations from anyone.
“We had provided the doctor’s note, which is what was stated on the NCSU guidelines for what they required, and it did not specify what needed to be on the note. So they told us she could not attend school. It’s been over two months now and she has not been provided any educational teaching from a certified teacher except for the week the school went remote and then they allowed her to join the other students.”
Castle explained the school masking policy and parents’ options in yesterday’s report:
Chronicle: What are the options for parents who do not want their children to wear masks in school?
Castle: “A parent may obtain an exemption to having their child wear a mask if they have a certified diagnosis from a physician of a medical reason for not wearing a mask or from a physician or mental health provider for a psychological reason. The school would need to review the medical information within a formal IEP or 504 process to determine if the accommodation is necessary to ensure the child is able to access their education.”
Chronicle: Please describe the reasoning behind removing a child from school for not wearing a mask.
Castle: “Schools that have established a mask requirement are doing so to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 in the interest of public health for students and staff. Allowing staff or students without a legitimate exemption to not wear a mask would result in many individuals opting out and thus increasing the risk of transmission. A student’s non-compliance with a mask requirement is considered unsafe and in violation of school procedures.”