Special Education

In mask debate, Arizona parents worry over special education students

As COVID-19 forced thousands of Arizona families in and out of remote learning last school year, Sadie Derton struggled through the difficult and often despairing work of supervising the online classes of her two children.

This year, Derton was ready to put that all behind her and resume in-person school for her two sons — until she realized that she couldn’t ensure the aide who would work closely with her children would wear a mask.

In Arizona, where state law bans mask mandates, schools are not allowed to require that staff members wear face coverings.

That’s left Derton, like many Arizona families with students in special education classes, not sure where to turn next. One of her sons has cat eye syndrome, or Schmid–Fraccaro syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder. Her other son, going into seventh grade, has Down syndrome and had struggled through collapsed lungs multiple times. He is vaccinated but also immunocompromised, meaning the vaccine may not offer as reliably high a level of protection from the coronavirus.