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Valley parents say son 'forced' to wear mask

Emmett Rooks
Posted at 5:08 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-08 20:56:29-05

PEORIA, AZ — A family in the West Valley believes their son's school is forcing him to wear a mask.

Heather and Aaron Rooks said their seven-year-old son Emmett, who has diagnosed ADHD, autism and sensory disorder, was exempt from the mandatory mask mandate at his school Vistancia Elementary School in the Peoria Unified School District.

FULL COVERAGE: Safely Back to School in Arizona

Heather said before the return to class on September 21, she obtained a doctor's note from Emmett's doctor at Phoenix Children's Hospital, as well as an email of assurance from the Vistancia School Nurse that Emmett would not have to wear a mask in class.

"Thank you for providing this valuable information," said the school's nurse on September 4 in an email to Rooks. "Emmett does not have to wear a mask. His doctor can fax or email the note to me."

However the Rooks said on the first day returning to class, Emmett was not allowed to go without a mask, and was told masks were mandatory for all students, with the only exemption to students with trouble breathing due to cloth masks.

"Got a call from the school nurse around noon that they had made him put a mask on his face walking into class," said Heather. That was from the first day of school.

Heather said Emmett was dreading to go to class on Friday, knowing he had to wear a mask. "He kept begging me to go to the car because he didn’t want to go to school with a mask on his face."

Due to his sensory disorder, the Rooks explained, Emmett has a difficult time wearing socks and underwear because they cause sensory overload that can be almost painful to Emmett.

Peoria Unified School District’s "Return to School Plan" requires students to wear masks or face coverings, and the only exemptions regarding cloth masks for students with difficulty breathing. The district says there are several different alternatives. Emmett was even given a face shield at one point. Another option is returning to virtual learning.

Peoria Unified also sent a consent form to all students including mandatory mask wearing for all students in the districts.

"We don’t want to sign them because it doesn’t make us feel comfortable especially when our child has a medical condition that should be honored in exempting him from the mask," said Heather.

The Rooks family said they have a meeting scheduled with the Peoria Unified School District Superintendent Jason Reynolds to move forward toward a resolution.

"We just want to get questions out because we’re concerned," said Heather.