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Connecticut child advocate says Meriden school children struggling with masking should learn in person

 Students enter a Connecticut school on the first day of the 2021-22 academic year.
Students enter a Connecticut school on the first day of the 2021-22 academic year.

Connecticut schoolchildren with disabilities cannot be excluded from in-person learning if they can’t mask up, according to the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate.

In an investigation, the office found that at least 21 children within Meriden Public Schools were forced into remote learning primarily due to an inability to wear a mask. Right now, there is universal masking in local schools, but Connecticut’s child advocate Sarah Eagan said exceptions can be made.

“Thankfully most children and most individuals can safely wear a mask, but the law still requires individual determinations of what alternatives can be put into place for individuals, including children, who because of disabilities who cannot maintain mask wearing throughout the day,” Eagan said.

Eagan reports that the Meriden children have returned to school.

Mark Benigni, superintendent of schools in Meriden, said he was “disheartened” by the report.

“We remain committed to working with all of our students and families to make sure their educational needs are met,” Benigni said. “However, I will never jeopardize the safety or health of our students or staff and will not be pressured by OCA to disregard the health professionals.”

The child advocates office said that the district’s actions warrant further review by the State Department of Education.

Copyright 2021 Connecticut Public Radio