MANKATO — A parent of high school athletes is alleging the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Public School District unlawfully banned him from attending home basketball games for the remainder of the season after several instances where he had take his mask off for medical reasons.
Todd Stencel has multiple sclerosis and says wearing a mask can worsen his condition because it can make it difficult to breathe.
Stencel says he was banned from attending two home basketball games after two instances where he took his mask off to get some fresh air. After the instances, he says he spoke with Supt. Dale Carlson about the situation and his medical condition, and they came to a compromise that Stencel would wear a face shield instead of a mask to future games.
Stencel claims he attended his sons’ basketball games wearing the face shield on Tuesday and at halftime of the varsity game, felt his condition worsening so he briefly took off the face shield to get some fresh air.
He says he was asked to put the face shield back on by someone working at the game, and he complied. The next day, he says he received a message from the school district that he had violated the school district’s mask policy and was banned from remaining home basketball games this season.
Carlson told The Free Press in an email that “the District will not comment on this specific situation... The District is committed to ensuring a safe environment for athletes, officials and fans who attend District athletic events.
”The District complies with all applicable guidelines and orders regarding the use of face coverings while on District property. Non-compliance with the District’s policy and directives is addressed on an individual basis,” the email read.
The school district’s policy does list situations such as eating where a mask may be temporarily taken off but does not mention a medical condition as a reason.
It also states that individuals with a medical condition that makes it unreasonable for them to wear a face covering may be exempt from facial covering requirements.
Stencel said he thinks the school district is being unreasonable and isn’t accommodating for people with medical conditions.
Patrick Casey, Stencel’s lawyer, said this is not a unique issue and that his law firm is seeing more complaints like this from students with medical conditions that may make it difficult to wear a facial covering.
Casey said his client is considering his options.
“All my client wants to do is see his kids play basketball,” Casey said.
Stencel’s two sons play on the high school basketball team and says he is pushing back on this because he just wants to be at his sons’ games.
“You don’t get those opportunities back in life,” he said.