Is it reasonable to quarantine unvaccinated and unmasked students who’ve been exposed to the COVID-19 virus? You would think so.

Is it legal? It may not be, at least in Kansas. And that would be weird, not to mention foolhardy.

Yet an law firm’s cease-and-desist letter warns the Gardner Edgerton School District that it’s illegal under state law to single out unvaccinated students for quarantine.

Talking about someone’s “vaccination status” is a bit of a euphemism. “Status” makes it sound like we’re talking about one’s marital or residency situation. Vaccination status is actually talking about one’s ability to spread a very communicable and often deadly disease. Quarantines in the teeth of a deadly pandemic are quite in order. If they’re illegal under Kansas law, then Kansas law needs to change.

The COVID-19 delta variant has gone after kids as the original strain rarely did. Not only are many ending up in the hospital, but I’ve interviewed a nurse who has seen young COVID-19 survivors saying goodbye to parents dying of COVID-19—forever guilt ridden for having guiltlessly exposed their parents to the virus.

The Kriegshauser Ney Law Group filed suit against the Johnson County Commission’s school mask mandate on behalf of a family in Blue Valley schools. They’re not trying to overturn the mandate so much as to make it better. Attorney Ryan Kriegshauser argues that the county mandate, at some 295 days, is too long and not “narrowly tailored” enough. And that the mandate needs to be automatically up for review periodically as conditions change.

I have no problem with that and neither should county commissioners. It’s comforting to know there are some checks on the governmental pandemic powers.

In Michigan, the state Supreme Court felt compelled to strike down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency COVID-19 restrictions last year as an “unlawful delegation of legislative power.” And I’ll never forget the video of the Ohio woman being tased and dragged from a middle school football game for not wearing a mask—outdoors and socially distanced from strangers.

In Kansas, Kriegshauser teamed up with the Kansas Justice Institute last year to block the Linn County Health Department from demanding—without so much as a warrant—that all businesses turn over lists of all their visitors and patrons. The order was quickly altered to at least allow for warrants.

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrogated to itself the power to prohibit evictions, now President Joe Biden’s Labor Department is ordering businesses with 100 or more workers to have them vaccinated or tested weekly. Can they even do that?

So there are real and ominous threats to civil liberties due to government overreach, well-intended or not.

I just don’t think quarantining and mask-wearing are among them.

Michael Ryan is a columnist for The Kansas City Star.


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