DeKalb County mother says children were prohibited from returning to school without masks, despite doctor’s note

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ala.- A DeKalb County mother is upset her two children were turned away from school on their first and second days.

Chelsea Taylor spent part of the school day on Thursday at the park with her three children.

She told WHNT News 19 that Valley Head principal Heath Kirby would not let her second and third grader return to school.

“The only thing that he told me was that he had 400 other children that go to this school that he’s trying to protect,” said Taylor.

Taylor said her children have asthma, anxiety, and learning disabilities, so they cannot wear masks.

“They have panic attacks, start crying, not able to breathe,” said Taylor.

She said she gave the school a doctor’s note exempting them from mask use, with one doctor’s decision.

“She actually said that since their medical condition of their anxiety and asthma, that they are not allowed to wear a mask, they are not recommended to wear a mask and they should not be forced to wear a mask at any time,” said Taylor.

The statewide mask mandate states people with certain medical conditions can be exempt from mask use, but that is as specific as it gets.

“I think it’s mainly up to the individual practitioner or provider to establish if a particular patient with a particular disease set would be at risk for complications from wearing a mask,” said Fort Payne Pediatrics  employee Dr. Austin Lively.

So WHNT News 19 asked if asthma falls under that exemptible criteria.

Lively said typically, no.

“I think there are probably some very rare scenarios in which a kid should be allowed to not wear a mask for a short period of time while they’re receiving medical evaluation…if there are development delays like in older child, but they have learning disabilities, that they can’t understand or comply willingly to wear a mask, that’s a different situation,” explained Lively.

He told WHNT News 19 that if a child is having trouble breathing while wearing a mask, they should remove the mask, be separated from the group of students and assessed by a nurse.

But in general, masks should be worn.

“It is for the good of everybody else in the school, in the classroom, and the community to protect them,” said Lively.

But Taylor disagrees.

She said she wants to enroll her kids in virtual classes, but cannot get quality internet where she lives.

“They’re saying that it’s going to be $7,800 for them to run me internet to my home, so it’s not something that financially I’m able to do that at this point,” said Taylor.

Superintendent Jason Barnett told WHNT News 19 that he has requested Taylor’s doctor’s documentation, but has yet to receive it.

He said once he gets it, he will review it and take the appropriate next steps.

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