WVEA sues Putnam County Schools over COVID policy

WINFIELD, W.Va. — The West Virginia Education Association wants a judge to order the COVID-19 policy in the Putnam County school district stopped immediately.

Dale Lee

The union has filed a lawsuit in Putnam County Circuit Court seeking an injunction.

WVEA President Dale Lee said Putnam’s policy is unsafe.

“It’s just really is creating problems for students. It’s a health-hazard for our students, our educators and everyone’s families. We just felt we needed to take this stand,” Lee told MetroNews Tuesday.

The Putnam County Board of Education was one of the last counties to deal with a mask mandate. It was approved late last month.

According to the policy, a mask mandate can only be implemented if a certain percentage of students have tested positive for the coronavirus. High schools have to meet a 25% threshold, while elementary and middle schools have to report 15% of students have tested positive.

Lee called the policy ridiculous.

“If you’re to those numbers you’ve created a health-hazard to begin with,” Lee said.

The lawsuit, which was filed Monday, alleges the Putnam County policy violates state regulations.

“Specifically, they are in violation of West Virginia’s Reportable Disease Rules (64CSR7). DHHR, the WVDE and the governor’s office are aware of the violation,” Lee said.

The policy also allows only one school official to report COVID cases to the local health department. Lee said the county’s contact tracing plan is impossible to follow.

Lee said the calls, text and emails from teachers and community members have been numerous. He said teachers are scared to make much noise.

“The fear from educators is retaliation from the board,” Lee said.

Lee asked the Putnam BOE at a recent meeting to stand down from the policy. He said Tuesday the WVEA didn’t want to have to sue.

“We want our students in front of our educators. We know that’s the best possible environment but people have to be safe,” Lee said.

Putnam County Schools says it does not comment on pending lawsuits.

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