A Right to Keep Children Home during Outbreaks?

COVID Safe Schools is taking legal action against the NSW Department of Education. The action is described by the organisation as a “test case” for parents’ right to keep their school-age children at home during outbreaks.

The case is being brought in the interests of a parent who, on the basis of a medical condition making her vulnerable to severe COVID, sought to educate her child at home. The parent sought support from the NSW Department of Education to do so.

Not only was that support reportedly not offered, the parent was also threatened with legal action if the child was not brought to in-person classes.

COVID Safe Schools is an organisation advocating for a more proactive approach to reducing the risk of COVID in NSW schools. The school environment affects not only children’s health but is a major transmitter of pathogens between households in a community.

“Covid Safe Schools Inc is funding this test case against the NSW Department of Education,” the organisation says, “challenging their refusal to grant leave to the student.”

During the omicron wave in January 2022, the NSW government ruled out fining parents for keeping their children at home due to health concerns.

“When we talk about parents being concerned and anxious, particularly in circumstances where their children may have underlying health conditions, we’re certainly not going to be fining parents,” the then NSW Premier said.

Yet there appeared to be a gap between the government’s PR and the state of the legislation. Guardian Australia reported that a number of parents were being threatened with files and legal action for doing just that at that time.

COVID Safe Schools have started a GoFundMe to support the test case. The group is seeking to raise $5,000 to pay pro bono lawyers’ procedural expenses. Donations can be made here.

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