Head teachers in Italy already bracing for the looming school year under COVID-19 protocols are now demanding they not be held legally responsible for any infections in their establishments.
School authorities have expressed concern over the start of the academic year on Sept. 14, especially after a recent uptick in cases of infection in young people.
"It is unthinkable that a head teacher could be blamed over a case of infection... where the health protocol has been fully applied," Antonello Giannelli, president of the National Association of Head Teachers, told AGI Italian news wire on Monday.
The group wants the government to specify in an upcoming decree that head teachers cannot be held liable if they follow required directives when students or teachers are nevertheless found to be infected.
According to new protocols, each school must have a room where suspected cases can be immediately isolated, but the head teacher does not have the power to decide whether or not to close the school. That decision falls to local authorities.
Under new security protocols, all schools must ensure a distance of at least 1 meter (about 3 feet) between pupils. But schools are still awaiting the arrival of over 2 million single-seat desks nationwide that will help to ensure proper distances and avoid the need for students to wear masks during lessons.
Some schools may not receive their desk deliveries before October.
On Sunday, Italy suspended its discos and ordered the mandatory wearing of masks from 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) to 6 a.m. to clamp down on the spread of infection among young people, less than a month before the restart of school.
Many of the recent micro-clusters of infections seen in Italy have been due to young holidaymakers returning from more at-risk countries such as Greece, Spain and Malta.
Italy, which closed its schools in March, has recorded over 254,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 35,000 deaths.