If science and conscience won’t convince your school district require masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, call in the lawyers.
The Rapid City School Board voted last night to require teachers and students to wear masks at school, swayed in part by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota’s concern that districts that don’t take sufficient precautions to fight the pandemic could get sued:
Assistant Superintendent Mark Gabrylczyk shared information from the ASBSD that he said would keep the district open to liability if mask requirements weren’t put forward. The ASBSD had used SDCL 20-9-1 as their basis to put forth more mask requirements statewide.
“District, board, board members, administrators, etc. could be sued during the pandemic should someone be infected, just as they could be sued on other claims before COVID-19 hit,” the ASBSD wrote on the PowerPoint that Gabrylczyk shared.
Gabrylczyk said the board doesn’t have a choice to forgo a mask requirement.
“We have a duty to keep everyone safe who’s on our campuses,” he said [Morgan Matzen, “School Board Votes to Require Masks for Students, Staff,” Rapid City Journal, 2020.08.10].
The statute cited is South Dakota’s injury liability law: “Every person is responsible for injury to the person, property, or rights of another caused by his willful acts or caused by his want of ordinary care or skill, subject in the latter cases to the defense of contributory negligence.”
Boy, even Kristi Noem and her in-person mask-discouragement tour may not be able to beat back an argument from the lawyers that masks and other modifications of normal school procedures are part of the ordinary care and skill we can properly expect from every organization to help protect everyone from the harms of a pandemic.