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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: August 10, 2021 04:24 PM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Parental Liability for Masking Mandate Opt-Out
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to ensure the safety of our Commonwealth’s children as the coronavirus continues to pose serious health hazards. My bill would establish liability for parents of children who refuse to comply with masking mandates in public schools, in the event that a classmate falls ill with COVID-19 or one of its more virulent variants.
While the last eighteen months have been difficult for many, the COVID-19 pandemic is unfortunately far from over. As more dangerous and transmittable variants of the virus emerge, such as the Delta and Lambda strains, health officials are warning that unvaccinated people face the highest risks of serious complications including death. With no vaccination available for children under age 16, it is critical then that schools enforce masking and social distancing guidelines to keep everyone healthy and safe. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control is reporting an average of 216 hospital admissions for children with COVID-19 symptoms, and children account for approximately 20% of new reported cases. This should strike fear into the heart of every parent.
My bill is patterned after other school-related activities where we hold the parent accountable, notably truancy. The legislation will provide a cause of action for families of children infected with COVID-19 to hold the parents of classmates who fail to follow masking guidelines civilly liable for expenses incurred due to the illness. For the parents to be held liable, they must have knowledge of a school’s masking requirements and either provided a formal opt-out or other notification to school officials that their child will not comply.
My hope is that this legislation is ultimately unnecessary, but given the anemic vaccination rates in many parts of the Commonwealth it is vital to ensuring the safety of school children. Please join me in co-sponsoring this important measure.