Due process hearing continues for Menomonie family demanding more mitigation protocols in schools

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 6:34 PM CST
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MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) - A Menomonie family is demanding their school district make their daughter’s learning environment safer.

Thomas Pearson and his partner are concerned the Menomonie Area School District isn’t doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Basically, the school district this school year has just refused to follow CDC and state and local public health guidelines,” said the Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, the family’s attorney.

He said the district made masks optional and is not following post-exposure quarantine recommendations.

“Under special education law, my client has a right to what is known as a ‘free appropriate public education.’ A ‘free appropriate public education,’ it is our opinion includes the right not to be at risk from getting a very serous illness when there are things that can be done by the school district to prevent that,” Spitzer-Resnick said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who have Down Syndrome are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19.

Spitzer-Resnick said Pearson kept his daughter out of school until she became fully vaccinated last month. He still feels she’s not safe at school.

That’s why Spitzer-Resnick is representing them in the due process hearing, which is allowed under federal and state special education law.

The cases is decided by an Administrative Law Judge in the Division of Hearings and Appeals in the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

While Spitzer-Resnick said these types of hearings are common, he doesn’t know of any cases using special education laws to enforce COVID-19 mitigation protocols. He thinks the decision will impact more than Menomonie students.

“I assure you that if we win this case, school districts will take notice, not just around the state but around the country,” he said.

The hearing began Monday and is expected to conclude Wednesday.

Spitzer-Resnick said the judge plans to issue her ruling on March 1.

He added the district has agreed to provide Pearson’s daughter with after-school tutoring to make up for the time she missed earlier this school year.

WEAU reached out to Menomonie Area School District Administrator Joe Zydowsky but have not heard back.

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