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YRDSB prohibits teachers from wearing N95 masks

TORONTO –  What happened to three teachers on the York Region District School Board seems surreal. The teachers who have chosen to buy and wear N95 masks in class say they have been threatened with disciplinary sanctions because only the use of blue surgical masks – the least protective ones, to be clear – supplied to the school board is allowed. 

One of the teachers, who has a young son and works in an elementary school with students who are not old enough to be vaccinated, said he purchased his own box of FN95 masks in August so he could wear them instead of those distributed by the York Region District School Board.

He and two other teachers told CBC News about their bewildering experience on condition of anonymity, as they are not allowed to talk about the matter and fear retaliation.

Throughout the month of September, the teacher said, the principal and the superintendent told him that he could only wear the surgical masks provided by the school: initially he refused, but then this month he was informed that he would be immediately suspended without salary.

With a mortgage and a family to support, the teacher said he had no choice but to reluctantly follow the rules of the YRDSB.

For its part, the school board said in a statement that staff must use the personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to ensure that safety requirements are met and that only specific staff members, who are trained to perform medical procedures while supporting students, are equipped with N95 masks.

The obligation to use less safe masks instead of those that guarantee greater protection and that moreover teachers have paid for out of their own pockets, is something that goes against all logic, which has nothing rational about it. Common sense, then, is light years away. To be amazed at the story of the three teachers was also the epidemiologist of the University of Toronto Colin Furness who rejected the masks provided by the superintendent to teachers: they are “of low quality” and “inadequate” and that “making these the maximum protection that teachers can wear, rather than the minimum, is frankly careless and negligent”.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the supply of N95 masks to Canada has increased steadily: these devices have become more widely available not only to healthcare professionals, but also to the public. Research shows that these are superior to surgical masks in blocking droplets infected with Covid-19. “Teachers are under a huge amount of stress, and if they want to upgrade their PPE, they should be able to do so,” Furness said.

Another immune-compromised primary school teacher and a high school teacher in the York region, faced with the threat of disciplinary action, also had to reluctantly accept the directives of the superintendent.

Until it was time to go to press, the York Region District School Board did not respond to the request for comment from the Corriere Canadese.

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