Washington lays out penalties for schools that ignore COVID mandates

Chris Reykdal Superintendent

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) filed an emergency rule this week outlining the process in disciplining schools if they don’t follow COVID-19 mandates.

At the end of July, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal told districts if they do not comply with the mask mandate, OSPI will withhold state funding.

Districts say about 80 percent of their funds come from the state and federal governments.

On Wednesday, OSPI sent an email to superintendents letting them know what steps will be taken if they do not comply with the mask or vaccination mandates for schools.

If OSPI gets notified that a district is not following protocol, they will send it a “first notice.” Within 15 days of receiving that notice, the district must “provide verification of compliance.” Verification would mean a resolution would be passed by the school district board “rescinding any actions previously taken prohibiting compliance.”

For example, that would mean if a board passed a resolution saying masks should be optional rather than mandated, the board would need to rescind that resolution.

If a district does not comply within 15 days of OSPI’s first notice, the state superintendent’s office will send a second notice. Districts will then have a five-day deadline to follow the mandate.

If districts do not follow the mandate within the five-day window, OSPI says it can withhold the next monthly payment until the district complies. The district or local education agency can get its monthly funds back once OSPI knows it’s is following the governor’s mandate.

If a school continues to not follow the mandates for two months in a row, future funding would be “reduced proportionately.”

OSPI says this is an emergency rule and is effective immediately, also saying it is “filing and implementing [it] without seeking public comment.”

The state superintendent’s office says it plans to make the rule permanent and will reach out for public comment then.

“The health and safety measures required by the Department of Health and the Governor’s Office are implemented following extensive research by public health experts. Statewide, nationwide, and global data and research show us that universal masking and widespread vaccinations are the two most effective measures our schools can utilize to combat virus spread. If there is minimal virus spread, the likelihood that you will need to close classrooms or entire schools is low. These safety measures work, and they are not at the discretion of local school boards or superintendent,” the letter reads.

To read more on the emergency ruling, click here.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: School districts that don’t enforce mask-wearing will lose state funding, says OSPI

RELATED: Washington to require all K-12 students, school employees to wear masks this fall

RELATED: Gov. Inslee issues indoor mask mandate, required vaccinations for school workers