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Oregon school superintendent coaches parents on how to escape mask and vaccine rules

An Oregon school superintendent is telling parents how they can get their children out of wearing masks by citing federal disability law.

A pastor at a California megachurch is offering religious exemptions for anyone morally conflicted over vaccine requirements.

And Louisiana’s attorney general has posted sample letters on his office’s Facebook page for those seeking to get around the governor’s mask rules.




Across the States religious figures, doctors, public officials and other community leaders are trying to help people circumvent COVID-19 precautions.

While proponents of these workarounds say they are looking out for children’s health and parents’ rights, others say such stratagems are dishonest and irresponsible and could undermine efforts to beat back the highly contagious delta variant.

Mask and vaccine requirements vary from state to state but often allow exemptions for certain medical conditions or religious or philosophical objections.



OREGON

In Oregon, Superintendent Marc Thielman of the rural Alsea School District told parents they can sidestep the governor’s school mask requirement by applying for an accommodation for their children under federal disabilities law.

Thielman said he hit upon the idea after the governor’s mandate generated “huge, huge pushback” from parents.

“The majority of my parents are skeptical and are no longer believing what they’re told” about COVID-19, said Thielman, whose district in the state’s coastal mountains begins classes Monday. “I’ve got a majority of my parents saying, ‘Are there any options?’”

In a letter to educators this past week, Democratic Governor Kate Brown said she was shocked that Thielman was undermining her policies by “instructing students to lie” about having a disability.

Brown has mandated masks in schools and vaccinations for all school staff amid a surge in infections that is clobbering Oregon. The state has broken its record for COVID-19 hospitalizations day after day, and cases among children have increased dramatically.

Thielman, who is planning to run for governor next year, when Brown can’t seek reelection because of term limits, said he is not anti-mask but is sensitive to parents’ concerns that face coverings can cause anxiety and headaches in children.