A Capehart Scatchard Blog

School Powers in Confronting an Epidemic

By on March 13, 2020 in Other with 0 Comments

School districts and boards of health have significant powers to address the spread of contagious disease.  Now is the time to review these powers.

The board of health may direct closure of schools. N.J.S.A. 18A:40-12.  Whenever the board of health of any municipality shall declare any epidemic or cause of ill health to be so injurious or hazardous as to make it necessary to close any or all of the public schools in the municipality, the board of health must immediately serve notice on the board of education of the school district situated in the municipality that it is desirable to close schools under its control.  The notice may apply to all or some of the schools in the district.  Schools closed shall not be reopened until the board of education is satisfied that all danger from the epidemic or cause of ill health has been removed. 

Additionally, school districts may exclude teachers and students exposed to contagious or infectious disease.  Subject to compliance with certain conditions, a principal may exclude from school any pupil who has been exposed to a communicable disease.  Notice of the reason for the exclusion must be given to the parent/guardian or other person having control of the pupil.  N.J.S.A. 18A:40-8.  Further, no teacher or pupil who is a member of a household in which a person is ill with a contagious or infectious disease as may be designated by the Board of education, or of a household exposed to contagion, shall attend any public school during such illness.  N.J.S.A. 18A:40-10.  Return to school is conditioned upon the board being furnished with a certificate from the board of health, or from the physician attending the person, or from a medical inspector certifying that all danger of communication of the disease by the teacher or pupil has passed.            

School districts that envision the need to exclude students or staff exposed to contagious or infectious disease should consult with legal counsel given the significance and impact of such a decision, and the importance of evaluating the facts in each situation.

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Robert Muccilli

About the Author

About the Author:

Robert A. Muccilli, Esq. is Co-Chair of Capehart Scatchard’s School Law Group and a Shareholder in the Labor and Employment Group. For over 25 years, he has focused his practice in the areas of school law, and labor and employment. He has represented school districts with respect to a variety of education law issues involving students, teachers, school construction and special education issues including questions pertaining to inclusion, least restrictive environment, discipline, behavior management, transition, evaluation, discrete trial instruction, medically fragile students, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Aspergers Syndrome, and equal access to activities and services for disabled individuals. He has also been recognized as one of South Jersey’s Top Attorneys as published by SJ Magazine. Mr. Muccilli is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and Washington, DC.

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