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SLC Board of Education responds to Mendenhall’s proposed mask mandate for K-6 students

(FILE PHOTO - First graders Gilbert Grant and Monty Fox wear masks as they wash their hands before lunch at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Salt Lake City on May 12, 2021. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY– On Tuesday, Mayor Erin Mendenhall said that she would like to have a mask mandate for K-6 students in the Salt Lake City School District. Mendenhall called an emergency meeting with the Salt Lake City Board of Education members to discuss the mask mandate for students on the same day.  

SLC Board of Education response to Mendenhall’s request

The board stated they share Mendenhall’s concerns about the health of students. They reported they’ve seen the effectiveness of mask-wearing in helping slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“Consistent and proper mask-wearing played an important role in preventing any schools in Salt Lake City School District from closing last year,” the board explained in a statement. 

However, while the board shares Mendenhall’s concerns, various current state statutes limit their ability to enforce a mask mandate. 

Therefore, the board is, “seeking a legal opinion on what actions a local school board can take regarding masking in schools within the scope of state law.”

Mendenhall calls for mask mandate across SLC school district 

According to Mendenhall’s attorneys, she has the power to declare a local emergency and to issue such a mask mandate. 

However, Mendenhall wanted the support of the board to make that recommendation. 

“It’s critically important to me, actually, that our locally elected school board play a role in any decision that I may make related to orders related to the district,” Mendenhall said. “And I’ve asked the school board to make an official recommendation on a requirement for masks in schools.”

According to Mendenhall, the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office conducted a detailed and thorough analysis of her options and abilities as city mayor. 

“They’ve determined that it is within my legal capacity as mayor to declare a local emergency and issue orders related to that emergency to protect public health and safety. And I’m fully confident in our city attorney’s findings,” Mendenhall explained. 

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