Navigating School Mask Mandates With A Co-Parent
Across the country, COVID-19 mask mandates and restrictions continue to polarize adults and children. In the South, especially in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, COVID-19 cases are higher than any other time during the pandemic thus far. However, governors of these states refuse to enact a state-wide mask mandate or school mask mandate. Some counties or school boards have individually enacted school mask mandates on a temporary basis in Florida because distance learning is no longer a viable option. School board meetings have erupted in violence due to differing opinions about a child’s requirement to wear a mask in school. Because children under 12 are not eligible for vaccinations, schools have reached this compromise to minimize spread of the virus. What can blended families and co-parents do to ease the back to school transition for their children?
Make a Plan
Palm Beach County Schools recently announced a mask mandate for all students. While students aged 12 and older are not required to obtain a vaccination, vaccination is encouraged. However, all students, staff and faculty must wear a mask on school campuses regardless of vaccination status according to CDC guidance. Co-parents should make a plan for how to prepare for the upcoming school year in the event that their child is exposed to COVID-19 or contracts the virus themselves. This means coordinating with the other parent about exhibiting symptoms, making sure your child has masks at both homes, and other PPE like hand sanitizer, and teaching your child good hygiene and hand-washing habits. If your child was exposed, obtain a rapid antigen or PCR test and inform your co-parent about the results. Develop a contingency plan with your co-parent about how custody schedules would be affected should your child need to quarantine. If your child must stay at home from school, which parent will handle day to day responsibilities? Do you need to look for childcare jointly? Planning ahead now will give your family peace of mind should something occur during the school year.
United Front & Open Communication
Divorced parents should be especially sensitive to presenting a united front with their shared children. When a child hears mixed messages about an event or requirement it can undermine the authority of both parents and confuse the child. Children are under enough stress this school year as it is. Some students may not have attended school in person for over a year and could be nervous about social interactions and physically be engaged in class. They might be worried about wearing a mask at school or scared about catching germs. Or a peer or classmate might be spreading misinformation that your child might repeat.
While you cannot protect your child from every small issue at school, prepare them in advance for what they might expect. Let your child help with school routines like picking out their lunchbox, preparing their lunch the night before, packing their backpack each night and laying out their clothes. Offer them choices for wearing a mask each day, such as a cartoon character design, and pack a back-up mask to take. Explain to your child that if they have questions they can come to you both for answers, and keep the other parent informed. Although it can be difficult to communicate effectively with a co-parent, it is critical parents put angst aside to help their shared children succeed.
Contact Attorney William Wallshein
If you are concerned about your child’s health or school attendance when your co-parent has custody, you should bring it to their attention. If your co-parent refuses to communicate, inform you of health or school information or is jeopardizing your child’s health and safety, you may need to take legal action. West Palm Beach family attorney William Wallshein is a true advocate for his clients. Call today to schedule a consultation.