Mask Up for Students with Disabilities

  • September 13, 2021

A young boy with Down syndrome wears a backwards hat and a mask. Above reads, "Everyone Deserves to be Safe in School."

En EspaƱol

Tennessee’s children with disabilities must be protected from COVID-19 and be afforded the same opportunities for in-person learning as children without disabilities. 

Children with disabilities want to learn, make friends, and take part in the school community. In the 2020-2021 school year, Tennessee’s children with disabilities were disproportionally impacted by the sudden move to virtual learning, often missing out on essential supports and services guaranteed to them through federal laws. This year, schools must shift to protect their students from COVID-19 while still allowing them to learn in-person. 

As Sherry Wilds, Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) Assistant Legal Director and Director of Pro Bono & Legal Interns, recently stated, “Children with disabilities do best when they are in the most integrated setting appropriate and receiving the in-person services they need.”

Children with disabilities are also at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and face worse outcomes when contracting the virus. Pre-existing health conditions make kids with special health care needs, chronic illnesses and disabilities particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. However, this risk can be mitigated. 

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics advise that everyone in a school community wear masks. Some people with disabilities are not able to wear face masks. So, it is not enough for children with disabilities alone to wear a mask to school - everyone must mask up in order to keep them safe and healthy. When schools implement this simple strategy, children with disabilities are more protected.  

“Universal masking in schools is best for Tennessee’s children with disabilities.” says Jack Derryberry, DRT’s Legal Director, “It allows our children to be safer and learn in-person. And it’s so easy - let's mask-up for students with disabilities.

Further Reading

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) is a nonprofit legal services organization that provides free legal advocacy services to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities.

Middle Tennessee (Admin Office)

2 International Plaza, Suite 825
Nashville, TN 37217

Phone: 615-298-1080
Fax: 615-298-2046

East Tennessee

9050 Executive Park Drive, Suite 101-B
Knoxville, TN 37923

Phone: 865-670-2944
Fax: 865-470-7028

West Tennessee

1407 Union Avenue, Suite 1015
Memphis, TN 38104

Phone: 901-458-6013
Fax: 901-249-2933