Students and Teachers Could Be Charged With a Misdemeanor If They Don't Wear Masks

Students and Teachers Could Be Charged With a Misdemeanor If They Don’t Wear Masks


A misdemeanor really? That’s a bit extreme but Governor of Utah Gary Herbert doesn’t think so.

The state of Utah doesn’t have a statewide mask mandate but only students and staff have to wear a mask or they could face up to a 1,000 dollar fine or 6 months in jail for a violation.

That’s a bit harsh considering children tend to forget things from time to time.

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CNN had this to say about the mask mandate:
Gov. Gary Herbert issued an order on July 17 requiring masks on school property and buses. While Utah does not have a statewide mandate, all students, teachers, staff, and visitors on school property must wear a mask.
Violating the order would be the same as violating any mandate, which is a class B misdemeanor. That is punishable by a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000, according to the Utah Judiciary.
Enforcing the mask mandate in schools is left up to local jurisdictions, officials said this week.
“The mask mandate is not intended to penalize students, parents or teachers — it’s intended to create a universal standard of a safe, common-sense practice. All mandates make a Class B misdemeanor the default penalty, but any enforcement of this would be on the local level,” Anna Lehnardt, director of communications for Herbert, said in a statement to CNN.
Utah currently has at least 47,521 Covid-19 cases and 377 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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The Salt Lake Tribune had this to say about the mask mandate:

Students and staff in Utah who don’t wear a mask in K-12 schools in accordance with the governor’s mandate can be charged with a misdemeanor.

The potential criminal penalty for violating the order was confirmed by Gov. Gary Herbert’s office late Wednesday. Spokeswoman Anna Lehnardt said it’s up to leaders of schools and charters to decide whether they want to seek charges as they respond to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s enforced on a district and superintendent level,” she added. “But we’re not thinking, ‘Let’s slap a bunch of kids with misdemeanors.‘ ”

Herbert had issued the mask mandate for public schools in July. As classrooms have begun reopening across the state this week, though, it’s become a new source of frustration for many parents — with a focus on the enforcement.

During a legislative meeting Wednesday, one mother questioned why there should be potential misdemeanor charges associated with something she sees as a personal choice.

“Our children should not have to suffer criminal consequences for getting an education,” said Angie Martin, who has a child attending high school in Cache County.

Lehnardt said she expects charges will rarely be pursued. And schools have the choice, too, to push students who won’t wear a mask to do online work. There are also exceptions to the order for those with medical conditions and during breakfast or lunch times.

If a criminal prosecution is sought, though, a school employee or a student — including those in kindergarten — could face a class B misdemeanor. That is the standard for any violation of a public health order, Lehnardt added. And it can be punished with a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. That is the same level of charge, for example, as a first offense for driving drunk.

Lawmakers discussed Wednesday whether the K-12 mask mandate was among the emergency executive orders issued by Herbert during the pandemic that are set to expire this week. But it is not, and it will remain in effect.

Legislative leaders won’t be renewing the governor’s other orders — including a mask requirement in state buildings — and it would be up to Herbert if he wants to reissue those. The school face-covering mandate, though, “is not in danger,” Lehnardt said, because it was issued in conjunction with the Utah Department of Health. It does not have an expiration date.

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What do you think? Does giving a teacher or a student a misdemeanor for not wearing a mask seem reasonable?

Post your comments below.

 

 


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