Palo Alto schools sued over mask rules

This story originally appeared Saturday morning in the Post. To avoid missing out on local news, pick up the Post in the mornings at 1,000 Mid-Peninsula locations.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The father of a child with disabilities is suing the Palo Alto Unified School District because his son wasn’t allowed to go mask-less at summer school, and could be held back.

The child is about to be a senior and is currently enrolled in summer school that began on July 6.

But he cannot wear a face mask safely and has a speech/communication disability, and wearing a mask makes his disability more pronounced, according to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday (July 7) in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

The boy’s attorney is also his father, so to provide confidentiality to the child, the Post will not be naming his attorney in this case.

The boy’s father contends in the lawsuit that due to California Department of Public Health guidelines, his son does not need to wear a mask to school and the district has been unwilling to work through the issue.

However, schools Superintendent Don Austin points out that the district has been working with families for the past year and a half to make sure everyone is safe and has a process for students who can’t wear a mask.

The issue started on June 28, when the student asked summer school Principal Courtney Carlomango if he could take classes virtually, either through the district or another online course outside the district. Carlomango told the student no, so the student’s father informed Carlomango that they would “invoke a face mask exemption” so the student could attend summer school, according to the lawsuit.

A mask exemption

Carlomango reportedly told the parent that mask exemptions are made by the district on a case-by-case basis. For example, a mask exemption could be approved if the child has such a requirement in an up-to-date IEP (individualized education program) or in his health records on file with the district.

Additionally, the district’s health department may need to confirm that the student does not need a mask, according to Carlomango’s email cited in the lawsuit.

Carlomango invited the student and his father to request an assessment of whether the child needs a mask at school.

The student’s father began discussing the matter with Mike Jacobs, the district’s safety manager. After discussing the matter, Jacobs told the student’s father on July 3 that the mask exemption request was denied, “citing a lack of evidence on file for a medical-related condition and noting that his IEP ended in 2018.”

Jacobs invited the boy’s father to discuss the matter with the district’s director of Secondary Special Education, Cynthia Loleng-Perez.

The lawsuit does not mention any further conversations with the district.

Despite having his request denied by the district, the boy went to the first day of summer school, July 6, without a mask. He was not allowed to enter the classroom by his teacher and was told to go to the office.

The student’s father also went to the office and spoke with Carlomango, who allegedly denied the parent’s request to have the student provided class notes and audio recordings if he could not attend class.

Since summer school is only 2½ weeks, students are only allowed to miss three days of school before being dropped from the program.

The lawsuit anticipates that if the student missed all of last week because of this mask waiver mandate, he will be barred from summer school and may be held back.

“(Student) should not be held back in school because of this matter. No student should be required to seek judicial intervention to attend class. That is an entirely unrealistic burden to place on a student,” the lawsuit says.

Following the rules

While the boy’s father said the district refuses to work through the issue, Superintendent Don Austin said the parent did not work with the district and provide the needed documents needed for a mask waiver.

“We understand some object to masking and have voiced their feelings previously. That does not change our obligation to follow protocols. We have students who have attended without masks. They went through the process, worked with staff, and have thrived. We were not afforded the same opportunity in this case,” Austin said in an email to the Post.


  1. What “science” is the district relying upon when they require all of the kids to wear masks? All they’re saying is that masks are a rule, and if you want to not wear them, you need to jump through all sorts of hoops that this boy and his father didn’t jump through. The district should first present the science behind wearing masks — what’s the incidence rate among school children? — and then impose the rules that totally disrupt the lives of our young people.

  2. Is this just another privileged parent, who doesn’t like to be told “no”? The district has been following mandated masks protocols since reopening. The district isn’t saying you can’t have a mask exemption, but you do need to provide documentation to support an exemption. Hello? This lawsuit doesn’t make much sense.

    • Where in the policy does it say you need to provide documentation? We’re in a bad place already when schools require documentation in hopes of allowing your child to breathe freely.

      Lawsuit doesn’t make sense? So if your child cannot wear a face mask safely and is denied an exemption, you just let your child sit at home and let the clock tick on his/her future…and do nothing about it?

  3. Hello mate,
    Just thought you might want to change your name to the ‘Every Other Daily Post’ since I still can’t seem to enjoy my daily routine of grabbing the Daily Post and reading it while drinking the best coffee at the Backyard Brew. Today I am stuck reading yesterday’s news again. Then I am forced to read that other paper which isn’t as good as the Daily in my opinion.

    Can you please start print daily again soon so that your readers can experience some kind of “normal” again?

    Thank you kindly!

  4. It’s not supposed to be this way. We need to remove these people from the stranglehold they have on education and media. If we don’t we will continue on the road to an absolute hell.

  5. I support this father.

    My son is disabled, he attended the summer school in PA and got hurt by his classmate, and he was very scared after that and refused to go to school. I tried to discuss with special education department to change to a different classroom, and they said “no” and listed a bunch of reasons that the class was still appropriate place for my son. The staff even told me that she couldn’t guarantee my son’s safety at school. I couldn’t afford a lawyer, so just dropped the summer school.

    • That is awful and unacceptable to say the least. You might have a claim for damages based on ADA, IDEA, and Unruh Act violations to your disabled son, especially if your son is on an IEP. No accommodation made to your child. Emotional and physical harm. Consider contacting a lawyer like the father in the article.

  6. Thanks for sharing. I read about the mask findings. So not only are maskless useless to stop viruses, but they are detrimental as well and not just because they restrict breathing and increase CO2 intake when rebreathing. Masks increase risk of infection from the pathogens listed in your comment.

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