Legal concerns rise as students prepare to head back to school

Legal concerns rise as students prepare to head back to school

COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - As schools begin to announce plans for the year, the legal concerns of sending kids back to school during a pandemic rises.

Infection rates among children ages 0 to 17 remain high. According to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the infection rate for the age group over the last week has been around 34%.

Now, some parents have asked if they send their child to school and they contract COVID-19, who will be held liable?

A new state law provides protections for schools and other entities from civil lawsuits related to the coronavirus, as long as it acted in due diligence to follow safety guidelines.

Here in the Pine Belt, one school district expressed little concern about potential lawsuits thanks to a recent survey.

“One of the things that I think helps with that is that we sent out a survey,” said Columbia School District Superintendent Dr. Jason Harris. “We receive a lot of feedback. Over 70% of our families in Columbia want to come back to school in person, meeting social distancing.”

Harris also explained options for the other 30% who may be uncomfortable with the traditional learning option.

“We will offer a virtual learning option as well,” Harris said. “So, that will allow those that are uncomfortable, you know we do have some students who are vulnerable. We have already reached out to them to make preparations for them. You know, some have 504s and different things, so we’re already working with them and have contacted their families to know that we recognize their issues and we want to help them.”

Things are not just happening in the Pine Belt that directly impact this area. President Donald Trump recently voiced his thoughts on sending students back to school.

“We’re asking Congress to provide $105 billion dollars to schools as part of the next coronavirus relief bill,” Trump said. “This funding will support mitigation measures, smaller class sizes, more teachers and teacher aids.”

This comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced guidance for opening schools. It says that while schools should take precautions, “schools play a critical role in supporting the whole child, not just their academic achievement.”

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