Mask-exempt student with ‘hidden disabilities’ allowed back in school after U-turn

PUBLISHED: 17:23 05 November 2020 | UPDATED: 17:23 05 November 2020

A pupil at Marshland High School in Wisbech was refused entry after she refused to wear a mask due to a hidden disability. Picture: Facebook/ Tina Boxall Marns

A pupil at Marshland High School in Wisbech was refused entry after she refused to wear a mask due to a hidden disability. Picture: Facebook/ Tina Boxall Marns

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A mask-exempt student who suffers panic attacks when wearing masks has been allowed back at school after staff told her to go home for not wearing a mask.

Marshland High School in Wisbech has since allowed the pupil back on one condition. Picture: Terry Harris Marshland High School in Wisbech has since allowed the pupil back on one condition. Picture: Terry Harris

Marshland High School in West Walton near Wisbech made a U-turn on their decision after refusing to allow Tina Marn’s daughter inside the building.

The ordeal, which took place on Thursday morning (November 5), was caught on camera by Ms Marns who filmed the incident on her mobile phone.

The video – which has since picked up thousands of views online – shows two members of staff telling the teenager she can’t enter without a mask.

Norfolk Police were even called out following the confrontation between Ms Marns and school staff, including headteacher Craig Jansen.

A pupil at Marshland High School in Wisbech was refused entry after she refused to wear a mask due to a hidden disability. Picture: Facebook/ Tina Boxall Marns A pupil at Marshland High School in Wisbech was refused entry after she refused to wear a mask due to a hidden disability. Picture: Facebook/ Tina Boxall Marns

“She has to wear a mask,” a staff member repeatedly tells the frustrated mum who gets her daughter to show her exemption lanyard and wristband.

“She doesn’t have to wear a mask, she’s got a hidden disability and the doctor has supported it,” Ms Marns repeatedly explains.

Since sharing the minute-long clip online, the school’s headteacher agreed to meet with Ms Marns to discuss how to move forward.

Her daughter has been allowed back at school for the rest of the week but must provide medical evidence of her ‘condition’ before Monday.

A pupil at Marshland High School in Wisbech was refused entry after she refused to wear a mask due to a hidden disability. Picture: Facebook/ Tina Boxall Marns A pupil at Marshland High School in Wisbech was refused entry after she refused to wear a mask due to a hidden disability. Picture: Facebook/ Tina Boxall Marns

Ms Marns says this is “not possible” as her GP had advised her they were not issuing such letters and it was up to her as a parent to self-state her daughter’s reasons for not wearing a mask.

Ms Marns also says she has “no issues with masks” but her daughter simply was “not able to wear one without suffering panic attacks and feeling unwell”.

“The head had my daughter into his office yesterday and has warned her about being excluded if she refuses to wear a mask,” she said.

“This made her even more worried. She wants to stay at the school and eventually go to university – she is not a problem child, and indeed the school confirms she has a good record.

Marshland High School in Wisbech has since allowed the pupil back on one condition. Picture: Terry HarrisMarshland High School in Wisbech has since allowed the pupil back on one condition. Picture: Terry Harris

“Being told by a teacher ‘you must put this on’ made her cry and is not good.”

Ms Marns said she was surprised the school rang the police today and said the head spoke with the officer and then the officer took her daughter into a private room to interview her.

“I was in my car outside and kept getting told what was going on,” she said.

“Eventually the head asked to speak to me – it’s amazing that it took my posting the video earlier for this to happen. I have been trying to speak to him for several days.”

A pupil at Marshland High School in Wisbech was refused entry after she refused to wear a mask due to a hidden disability. Picture: Facebook/ Tina Boxall Marns A pupil at Marshland High School in Wisbech was refused entry after she refused to wear a mask due to a hidden disability. Picture: Facebook/ Tina Boxall Marns

Headteacher Craig Jansen said: “We made it compulsory for all students and staff to wear face coverings in corridors at the start of the academic year. We have been in dialogue with the student’s mother to resolve this situation.”

Mr Jansen said the student was “not being refused entry to the school” despite what was shown on the video.

He added: “We asked the student’s mother for confirmation of the exemption to wear a face covering but as of today had not received any documentation from their mother or from their medical practitioner.

“Following an amicable meeting this afternoon their mother confirmed she can provide confirmation of medical exemption. This school is happy with this resolution.”

He added: “Our primary aim is to keep our school community safe and calm, reduce the risk of increased lockdown restrictions, and to ensure our students are able to stay in school and focus on their learning.

“I would like to say a big thank you to our students who are co-operating with staff and who have adapted brilliantly to the new temporary COVID rules, as well as to all the parents supporting these.

“As ever, Marshland students impress me with their standards of behaviour and ability to adapt to challenging circumstances.”

Ms Marns, who still says a GP letter is “not possible”, said her daughter’s mental health was being put at risk by the ongoing dispute – her daughter had been treated by the GP for anxiety, and earlier this year her daughter’s eczema became worse because of the stress.

“Even her school friends understand,” she said. “They can see her going pale and looking unwell when the mask issue is raised.”

Tina said she was unfailingly polite during her visit to the school and will now speak with her husband about what they do next.

“I have followed all the Government guidelines for my daughter to wear a lanyard to identify her as someone not able to wear a mask – that should surely be enough for the school?”


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