A Schreiner University freshman says she’s medically unable to comply with Schreiner University’s face mask requirements and is threatening legal action to overturn the school’s mask mandate.
McKenna Hall, a finance major who is being represented by local attorney Richard Ellison, said she should be allowed to attend in-person classes and participate in the school’s equestrian program without wearing a face mask or face shield.
Although she’s on campus and receives instruction, Hall can only view lectures over the internet from her dorm room, and she’s been barred from equestrian team practices unless she wears a face covering.
“Before arriving at Schreiner, I’ve never been made to wear a mask,” McKenna said in a press release issued by another of her attorneys. “No one questioned my medical exemption. Everyone has been accommodating. Yet the one place that I am paying to be at, the one where they say they minister to the ‘whole person,’ won’t acknowledge much less accommodate my medical needs. I am at Schreiner for a higher education and to be on their equestrian team, not to be forced to conform to inhuman measures that risk my education and personal health, nor to be isolated off campus.”
Schreiner University spokesman Toby Appleton said the university has been clear about its requirements about face masks.
“Our priority was clear from the onset — the safety of our students, employees and the community in which we reside — as we continue to provide a premier education to our students,” Appleton said
The family said they only learned about the face mask requirement three days before Hall was to move into her dorm last month.
However, the university had publicly announced in June that it would require face masks via local media and its website.
Hall said her doctor gave her documentation to submit to the university so she can be exempt from the school’s face-covering requirements. But she contends the university has not appropriately honored the exemption and has not provided her with reasonable accommodation for her disability as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Hall expressed a desire to keep her medical diagnosis private.
“What you can say is that I have two doctor’s notes exempting me from face coverings, and the school is refusing to honor both of them,” Hall said.
Last week, Hall said she was still awaiting word from the university on her exemption from the face masks. Her plight has also drawn the attention of attorney Briscoe Cain, who serves in the Texas House of Representatives.
“The university needs to walk back these oppressive policies and get back to the business of educating students in what matters,” said Cain, a Republican from Deer Park. “The administration of Schreiner University should be ashamed of themselves. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires reasonable accommodations. The accommodations offered by the university are anything but reasonable. They are heartless and discriminatory.”
Like many universities across the country, Schreiner University has been working to mitigate the risk to students and staff. The largest demographic of those who have contracted the virus have been 20-29 years old. Outside of four cases before classes started last month, Schreiner has been successful at keeping the virus off the campus.
The university has some of the strictest access protocols in Kerrville.
Hall said the university does enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that the “ubiquitous wearing of face coverings” should not be required.
“You have a COVID negative test to get on campus, and we have to get daily temperature checks,” Hall said in an email. “They also make you wear a wristband to show you had your temperature checked and gave all students an access pass to get onto campus.”
Another student on campus, senior Harold Barker, who hopes to become a lawyer or enter the U.S. Air Force, said the face-covering requirement doesn’t bother him.
“I have a heart problem and asthma, and I wear my mask above my nose, and I’m completely fine,” Barker said. “I would say a good majority (of students) are saying it’s harder to breathe, but I would say that’s nonsense.”
Barker, who’s double majoring in political science and communications studies, said it seems about half of students aren’t wearing the masks over their noses.
“It defeats the purpose of the masks,” Barker said.