California will prohibit students from entering public K-12 campuses if they refuse to wear masks while inside buildings and classrooms, according to new state regulations announced Monday afternoon.
The policy, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, will mean that schoolchildren, regardless of vaccination status, will have to mask-up when schools resume classes in fall. Exemptions will exist for students with disabilities or for students with certain health needs.
“[T]o comply with this guidance, schools must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face covering under [California Department of Public Health] guidelines and refuse to wear one provided by the school,” per the regulations.
📣 CA has updated school guidance for the 2021-22 school year to align with the CDC to reinforce the shared priority of full in-person instruction for students. This guidance recommends mitigation strategies for schools to achieve this goal. For more info: https://t.co/LfuU8hoNrn pic.twitter.com/QqVld4bzc4
— CA Public Health (@CAPublicHealth) July 13, 2021
Students who don’t comply with the mask policy will be offered “alternative educational opportunities,” according to the state rules. It remains unclear what these “alternative educational opportunities” might entail.
“This guidance is designed to enable all schools to offer and provide full in-person instruction to all students safely, consistent with the current scientific evidence about COVID-19, even if pandemic dynamics shift throughout the school year, affected by vaccination rates and the potential emergence of viral variants,” says the department.
The regulations are more strict than the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that were released on Friday. The CDC’s non-binding guidelines, which were updated most recently on July 9, merely recommend that students who have not been fully vaccinated wear masks while in school. The CDC does not provide a masking recommendation for fully vaccinated students in the way that California’s regulation does.
That said, California’s new regulation appears to fall within the CDC’s framework, as the CDC also says that “school administrators may opt to make mask use universally required (i.e., required regardless of vaccination status) in the school” based on an individual community’s needs. For example, the CDC notes that school administrators may find it appropriate to require universal masking if parents, teachers, or other community members express reluctance going without the policy, or if non-universal enforcement would be difficult.