The California Department of Public Health said on Monday that K-12 students who refuse to wear masks must be kept off campus, but then quickly reversed itself in the face of a backlash.
The revised guidelines leave it up to local districts to decide how to enforce the state’s universal mask mandate. The move comes as districts across the country are preparing for the return of full in-person instruction in the fall.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday that vaccinated students and staff do not have to wear masks at school. The CDC also said that those who are unvaccinated — which includes all kids under age 12 — should continue to wear masks.
The state of California opted for a stricter rule, mandating masks for everyone — students and staff, vaccinated and unvaccinated — while indoors at school. The state also directed that students who do not comply should be kept out.
“In order to comply with this guidance, schools must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face covering under CDPH guidelines and refuse to wear one provided by the school,” the state said.
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The state’s order generated significant pushback, given that it both exceeded the CDC guidance and mandated the penalty to be enforced by local districts. By the end of the day on Monday, the line requiring unmasked students to be excluded had been deleted.
“UPDATE: California’s school guidance will be clarified regarding masking enforcement, recognizing local schools’ experience in keeping students and educators safe while ensuring schools fully reopen for in-person instruction,” the California Department of Public Health said on Twitter.
The universal mask mandate remains in place, but enforcement of that rule is now in the hands of local districts.
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