The new guidance follows in the wake of a lawsuit by CHD and eight parents of New York schoolchildren challenging mandatory COVID testing and closing of New York City Schools.
The New York State Education Department issued a letter Feb. 16 informing all public schools in the state that parental consent to COVID-19 tests for their children is not required for in-person instruction, or for participation in any school activities, including extracurricular activities.
The lawsuit was filed Dec.16, 2020, by eight New York City parents and Children’s Health Defense (CHD) against the New York City Department of Education and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The parents are represented by Attorneys James Mermigis, Ray L. Flores II, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., CHD chairman and chief legal counsel, and Mary Holland, CHD president and general counsel.
The Feb. 16 letter from Kathleen R. Cataldo, assistant commissioner, Office of Student Support Services said:
“The Department has received reports from the field that some school districts are requiring parents’ consent on behalf of their children, to COVID-19 testing as a condition of activities including in-person learning and extracurricular activities. The Department hereby clarifies that parent/guardian consent for COVID 19 resting of students may not be a condition of in-person learning or other school activities.” (Underlining from the original.)
Since Nov. 19, 2020, children in grades 6-12 have been completely excluded from all in-school education. NYC has provided no specific date by which these students will be back in school.
Since early December, K-5 and special needs students have been able to attend “blended learning,” usually just 1-2 days per week, but only if they submit to in-school polymerase chain reaction (PCR) genetic testing for COVID-19. If parents refused, the education department relegated their kids to remote learning for at least the next 10 months.
NYC schools were open to all students for blended learning September through mid-November, even though all families had the option of remote learning. Mayor de Blasio shut schools down again because of a rise in the city-wide PCR positivity rate.