DESE Issues Mask Mandate for 2021-2022 School Year

On August 25, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) implemented a requirement that all public school students (age 5 and above), staff members and building visitors wear a mask indoors through at least October 1, 2021.  In particular, the mandate specifies that:

  • Masks should cover an individual’s nose and mouth;
  • While students younger than 5 years old are not required to wear a mask, it is strongly recommended;
  • Districts should honor medical and behavioral reasons that would exempt individuals from the mask requirement;
  • The mask requirement does not apply indoors when an individual is eating, drinking, taking a mask break or when necessary to participate in an elective (i.e. wind instruments in band);
  • Districts should have disposable masks available for students who need them;
  • Consistent with a federal public health order, masks must be worn on school buses;
  • Districts should consult their discipline policies and legal counsel in addressing student discipline for failure to wear a mask;
  • Districts must submit a plan to DESE confirming health and safety procedures by September 3, 2021.

Lastly, the mandate provides after October 1st, school districts that can demonstrate that 80% or more of students and staff are vaccinated will no longer be subject to the DESE mask mandate.  DESE will provide more guidance ahead of October 1st in how school districts can demonstrate this vaccination rate.

If you have any questions regarding this mandate or school law generally, please contact us.

This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.