How to respond to parent ‘notices’ regarding COVID-19

Schools have been receiving “Notices” from some parents demanding certain actions regarding COVID-19 by schools. Solicitors Stone King LLP, a CST Platinum Partner, has provided the following briefing on how to respond to those notices and partner Laura Berman is available to advise on any specific questions schools may have on this topic.

“Notice” 1

“Requesting forthwith a copy of your health risk assessment on the potential adverse health effects, injury or damage, arising from mask wearing at school. I am deeply concerned at the potential for detrimental health issues from mask wearing, and I serve this Notice of Liability on you to inform you I DO NOT CONSENT to my child being compelled to wear a mask at school and will, if any harm or injury arises from same, hold you personally liable for damages and or injury. Science shows that mask wearing reduces oxygen intake and contributes to excessive levels of CO2 inhalation. Science also shows that children are not at risk from the coronavirus which has an infection fatality rate of around 0.1%!

Stone King Advice

The latest Government guidance on returning to schools states: “Schools should share the results of their risk assessment with their workforce. If possible, they should consider publishing it on their website to provide transparency of approach to parents, carers and pupils (HSE would expect all employers with over 50 staff to do so).” Schools should therefore disclose a copy of their risk assessment.

The DfE guidance further states (our underlining): “Schools that teach children in years 7 and above and which are not under specific local restriction measures will have the discretion to require face coverings for pupils, staff and visitors in areas outside the classroom where social distancing cannot easily be maintained, such as corridors and communal areas and it has been deemed appropriate in those circumstances. In areas where local lockdowns or restrictions are in place, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils (in years 7 and above) in areas outside classrooms when moving around communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain such as corridors. In the event of new local restrictions being imposed, schools will need to communicate quickly and clearly to staff, parents, pupils that the new arrangements require the use of face coverings in certain circumstances.” It is therefore up to individual schools whether to implement a policy requiring the use of face coverings in communal areas. If they do, our advice is to tie it into uniform, behaviour and health and safety policies. A school should explain to the parent what the school rules are and that disciplinary action will be taken for anyone who does not follow them. The school can explain that the policy is in place to safeguard the welfare of everyone in the school community. The school only needs to make adjustments to any policy for a child who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability or if there is a child/adult who speaks to or provides assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.

“Notice” 2

If at any time you or a member of staff believe my son to be showing symptoms of any cold, flu or a ‘virus’ of any kind, you will contact me in the first instance and you guarantee he will not be taken to any place out of school without our permission as parent first. There are powers within the Coronavirus Act 2020 to detain and take away anyone deemed to be infected and I say again, I DO NOT CONSENT to this abuse of unlawful power.

Stone King Advice

The DfE guidance states: If anyone in the school becomes unwell with a new and persistent cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and advised to follow guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, which sets out that they should self-isolate for at least 10 days and should arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19). If a child is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door, depending on the age and needs of the child, with appropriate adult supervision if required. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If they need to go to the bathroom while waiting to be collected, they should use a separate bathroom if possible. The bathroom must be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.

Consequently, schools are advised to inform parents that, should their child develop symptoms of coronavirus the school will be following the above guidance and the parents will be contacted to collect that child.

“Notice” 3

In addition, I would like to make you aware that some hand sanitizers through excessive use can contribute to eczema, dermatitis and the active chemicals can be absorbed in through the skin and adversely affect health in the long term. I also alert you to the fact that some industrial chemicals used on a regular basis to clean desks often contain chemicals which are judged to be potentially carcinogenic and have side effects with prolonged use, thus posing a risk to both pupils and staff. I do not consent to chemical hand sanitizer being used on [child’s name] and I have provided my own.

Stone King Advice

Inform the parent that appropriate precautions are taken to ensure that any cleansing materials such as sanitisers used in school are safe to use and that their use falls, like face coverings, within the school rules. However, schools may take the view that if the child has their own hand sanitiser, this may be acceptable. Alternatively, traditional soap and water could be required for anyone not wanting to use the school’s hand sanitiser. This may lead to practical frustrations, but may provide a sensible way forward.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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