Menomonie parents take legal action demanding school take COVID-19 safety protocols

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 7:21 PM CDT
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MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) - A Menomonie family is taking legal action hoping to get their daughter back in school.

Thomas Pearson and his partner are seeking a due process hearing with the Menomonie School District.

He said his 6-year-old daughter, who has Down Syndrome, isn’t safe at school. He believes the district isn’t using taking proper COVID-19 precautions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with Down Syndrome are more likely to get severely ill from the virus.

“This is not something we ever imagined we’d be doing and it’s really hard to be going down this path,” Pearson said.

Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick is the family’s lawyer.

He said a due process hearing is allowed under state and federal laws governing special education. His clients and the school district will present their arguments to a judge who will decide whether Pearson’s daughter’s special needs education rights have been violated.

“We don’t think we’re asking for a lot,” Spitzer-Resnick said. “We’re not asking for any money. We’re asking her to not have to risk her life, or we’re asking the district so that she doesn’t have to risk her life to get what every what ever child has the right to, to go to school.”

In a letter to Menomonie School District Administrator Joe Zydowsky, Spitzer-Resnick said the family wants four things in her school, Oaklawn Elementary School.

They’re seeking a mask mandate, a vaccination requirement for staff, required quarantining for people who have the virus and close contacts and at least 3 feet of social distancing whenever possible.

“Something happened to a variety of school boards around the state including Menomonie, over the summer I guess, where all of the sudden they thought the pandemic went away, which is absurd,” Spitzer-Resnick said. “Not only has it not gone away, it’s gotten worse. And moreover, we’re talking about an elementary school where none of the children are vaccinated.”

Zydowsky declined to comment on the matter.

Pearson said he wants his daughter’s school to be safe.

“We just want the school district to be doing everything that’s recommended to keep kids safe and especially kids with disabilities or other medical conditions that make them more vulnerable if they were to get COVID-19,” he said.

Spitzer-Resnick said the hearing will likely take place in December.

He said these cases can be settled without a formal hearing.

He added the Pearsons will only negotiate if they’re assured the district will make binding promises.

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