The Conneaut School District is currently allowing parents and students to use publicly available, non-specific medical exemptions to allow students to attend Conneaut schools without wearing a face mask.
Conneaut Superintendent Jarrin Sperry confirmed to the Tribune on Wednesday that the school district was accepting such exemptions based on consultation with school board solicitor George Joseph. The Tribune received anonymous tips on Wednesday regarding the acceptance of these exemptions.
The exemptions are available free publicly, and the doctor who signed the exemption may not have ever seen the child the exemption is granted toward. One such example of an exemption is one released online by Dr. Joel Yeager of Heritage Family Health, a practice located in Newmanstown, Pennsylvania, which is in the southeastern part of the state.
Sperry said exemptions from Yeager were used, but said other doctors had also put out publicly available exemptions, though he could not think of any specific examples besides Yeager.
"There's a bunch," Sperry said. "They're all over the place."
Sperry said, based off consultation with Joseph, that the state's order does not specify that the school district could not accept such publicly available exemptions, however, Sperry said the state could change the exemption.
Joseph, speaking with the Tribune, specified that his judgment is his initial assessment. He said he only learned of the public exemptions Tuesday morning.
"I think at the moment that is acceptable," he said. "We're continuing to look at all that."
Joseph said since the school district isn't in "the business of practicing medicine," it would accept any medical exemptions signed by a doctor.
"If we get an excuse from a doctor, we'll take it," he said.
The solicitor did specify that the rule could change suddenly and that the state could ban the acceptance of such an exemption. Tom Washington, superintendent of Crawford Central School District, said his district is not accepting pre-signed exemption forms, such as those made by Yeager.
Even with the exemptions, Sperry said the school buildings of Conneaut had between 83 to 95 percent masking rates, and said the school district has had no major issues in terms of asking students to leave school for not wearing a mask.
Attempts to reach Yeager for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Sean P. Ray can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.