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Governor’s office clarifies school mask mandate penalty

(Photo by Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Herbert’s office is clarifying the potential criminal penalty for students and staff for not wearing a mask in school.

They said, while technically students, staff or others found not wearing a mask in Utah schools could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, it was never the intention. The charges are punishable for up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine.

Anna Lehnardt, the governor’s spokesperson said it’s unlikely someone will be charged for not wearing a mask in school. 

“The mask mandate is not intended to penalize students, parents or teachers — it’s intended to create a universal standard of a safe, common-sense practice,” said Anna Lehnardt.

“All mandates make a Class B misdemeanor the default penalty, but any enforcement of this would be on the local level.”

The local level could mean the principal, district or superintendent. It seems more likely for example that educators would steer a student toward the online option if they don’t wear a mask in school.

The mask mandate for K-12 schools in Utah was issued by the governor in early July after working with the Utah Department of Health.

Many subjects surrounding going back to school came up during the Education Interim Committee meeting Wednesday. Some questioned whether schools are being too restrictive with children, when they face a low risk.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn she hears from people on both sides saying some say the state is being too restrictive. While others say they are concerned about the children and teachers.

COVID-19 challenges persist as Utah kids go back to class