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Ducey advisor: Catalina Foothills School District quarantine policy violates state law

Catalina Foothills High School
Posted at 5:08 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 08:34:04-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Lawyers for a Southern Arizona school district are responding after the district received a sternly-worded letter from the Governor's office.

The letter was addressed to Catalina Foothills School District Superintendent Mary Kamerzell and claims the district's COVID-19 exposure policy violates state law. The letter comes from Kairlin Harrier, an education policy advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey.

"Specifically, the practice of instituting a mandatory 14-day quarantine for unvaccinated students who have a COVID-19 exposure, but exempting vaccinated students, is contrary to Laws 2021, Chapter 404, Sec. 12, which states, 'A school district or charter school may not require a student or teacher to receive a vaccine for COVID-19 or to wear a face covering to participate in in-person instruction,'" Harrier's letter to Kamerzell says.

Harrier also sent a letter to the Peoria Unified School District, which has a similar policy.

Harrier says CFUSD's policy of keeping students out of the classroom for 14 days -- potentially more than once -- would have detrimental effects on their education and could even keep students from meeting attendance requirements to advance to the next grade level.

"This policy must be rescinded immediately," Harrier says in the letter.

When asked about the letter from the governor's office, a spokesperson for the district sent this response:

"Like other public school districts, we do not write our own COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance policy. We use the practices set forth in the Arizona Department of Health Services Release from Isolation and Quarantine Guidance. We are perplexed by the letter, as it seems to indicate that the current ADHS guidance to K-12 schools is not in compliance with state law. We will definitely follow up with the ADHS and the PCHD for their review."

Thursday, lawyers representing both districts sent a rebuttal to the Governor's office. In their letter, the Deconcini, McDonald, Yetwin, and Lacy lawfirm said the statutes listed in Harrier's letter don't apply to the districts' COVID isolation policies.

The letter explains that Laws 2021, Chapter 404, Sec. 12 refers to a state law that doesn't allow school districts to require students or teachers to get vaccinated or wear masks.

Lawyers for the districts say the school's policy isn't about masks or vaccines, but quarantine policy. They claim the policy doesn't violate the letter or the spirit of the law how it's written.

They've asked the Governor's office to rescind their letter.

So far, the Governor's office has not responded.

RELATED: Letters to Ms. Harrier at the Office of Arizona Governor Ducey from the legal counsel to Catalina Foothills School District and the legal counsel to Peoria Unified School District, in response to the July 14 letter received from Governor Ducey's office regarding K-12 school isolation and quarantine procedures.