Can a public school send a student or teacher home if they have the coronavirus?
Yes. The government (and public schools) have the power to act to keep students and school staff safe. If someone has an illness that’s a direct threat to others, schools may require the person to stay home. They also have the legal power to close down physical buildings and have all kids learn from home.
Can the school share information about a student or staff person having the coronavirus?
Schools can and may be required by law to disclose that coronavirus exposure has occurred. However, they can’t identify the person except in specific situations.
Teachers and school staff also have privacy rights. In general, schools can share that coronavirus exposure has occurred, but they can’t give out identifying information. However, the laws around employees are complex. For more information, look at this
guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
When a school closes temporarily for all kids, do kids have the right to instruction at home?
No. Let’s say a school closes because of an emergency and decides that no students will be taught. In that case, all instruction stops.
Because there’s no general education happening, there typically will be no special education either. There may be rare exceptions to this for kids with needs that are critical or time-sensitive.
State laws require that students have a certain number of days of instruction per year. So what’s happening now is that physical school buildings are staying closed, but schools are reopening with kids learning at home. When schools are providing distance learning, they must also provide special education services.
Does a public school have to respond to bullying, harassment, and discrimination?
Yes. Even as they work to keep students safe, schools may not discriminate against kids based on disability, race, color, or national origin. They must also investigate and respond to bullying or harassment that denies kids their right to an education.