Ducey’s office calls 2 Arizona school districts’ quarantine policy ‘unlawful’

Jul 16, 2021, 11:15 AM | Updated: Jul 19, 2021, 3:24 pm
(AP Photo)...
(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – Two Arizona school districts have received a warning from Gov. Doug Ducey that they cannot quarantine unvaccinated students who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Ducey’s office informed the Peoria Unified School and Tucson Catalina Foothills School districts in a letter sent Wednesday that their plans to require a 10-day isolation period for unvaccinated students “did not comply with state law” and were discriminatory.

“This policy must be rescinded immediately. The Arizona Department of Health Services is prepared to provide guidance on the best ways to protect your students and ensure they receive the education that our state’s constitution promises them, in alignment with state law,” the letter concluded.

Classes begin in the Peoria district Aug. 4; the Tucson district starts Aug. 9.

Lawyers representing the two school districts disagreed in a written response to the governor’s office Thursday and asked that the letter be rescinded.

“Nothing in A.R.S. § 15-342.05 restricts a school district from following guidance provided by federal, state and local public health authorities with regard to students who have been exposed to COVID-19,” the Tucson-based lawyers wrote.

The West Valley district announced on its website that students have to follow Maricopa County Department of Public Health regulations that call for students who are exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine for 10 days “from the date of the exposure.”

Vaccinated students are exempt and that is contrary to Laws 2021, Chapter 404, Sec. 12, the governor’s office said.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman tweeted Thursday that she was “tired of Arizona’s public schools being a leverage point for the governor’s political conversation on COVID-19 that growingly has nothing to do with science or public health.”

Hoffman also said with Ducey’s ban on masks and vaccine requirements for public schools, “A quarantine period for exposed, unvaccinated individuals is one of the only tools left to maintain a safe in-person learning environment.”

Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on the Friday the letter from Ducey’s education policy advisor was overreaching.

“Bottom line is under state law, it’s county health department officials that make those quarantine decisions when there’s a close contact of an unvaccinated child of a communicable disease in a school setting,” said the former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Ducey’s office calls 2 Arizona school districts’ quarantine policy ‘unlawful’