Parents face a dilemma in states that ban school masks

This month, Tempe mom Kammy Pany was disappointed to learn the Arizona House had passed a measure that would ban all school districts and charter schools from requiring masks.

After a year at home, their three elementary school-age children were looking forward to going back to class in person this fall. But because of her compromised immune system and likely mask change, Pany had no choice but to find a school that offered online learning. After researching about six, she finally found one.

“It was difficult, and the kids stopped asking about going back to school at that point,” Pany said. “They stopped asking about friends. They’re just used to this new life. … It was quite isolating for all of us.”

Arizona is one of those latest conditions Consider a permanent ban on mask requirements in K-12 public schools, charter schools, and colleges and universities. Lawmakers and governors in at least three other states — Iowa, Texas and Utah — have passed similar legislation or signed executive orders banning school districts from requiring face coverings.

Some of the moves came despite guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 15 advise Schools must continue to require masks. Of the states that ban compulsory masks in schools, none have vaccinated more than 30% of children ages 12 to 17 The New York Times.

Parents, education advocates and health professionals have raised concerns that as more students return to school buildings, the larger classes could put children who are unvaccinated or too young to get the shots at risk, even if there are more transmissible variants overall circulate country. On the other hand, some lawmakers, mostly Republicans, say vaccinated students should have the freedom to choose whether to dress up.

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“People will say, ‘Well, I go into the store and I don’t wear masks. And I didn’t get COVID,'” said Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist and senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “But schools are a kind of special environment and people spend a lot of time in them. So if there’s a person who has COVID at a school… your risk of being exposed in that classroom is pretty high.”

Like adults, children can contract COVID-19 and infect other people; However, fewer children are affected than adults and it is rare for infected children to die according to to the CDC. School-based mitigation efforts, such as masking and daily screening for symptoms, limit transmission of COVID-19 in schools, according to a June study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Princeton University and the University of Geneva, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science .

Despite low infection rates, some parents in Arizona told state border They would rather enroll their children in virtual learning than send them back to schools that don’t have mask requirements.

Kami Galvani intended her three children to return in person this fall, but the lack of mask requirements prompted her and her husband to decide to keep the children at home. Galvani has twins who are going to first grade and she believes it would be almost impossible for them to study without a teacher or adult physically present, so she plans to keep them enrolled for virtual learning, even though they would prefer not to do so. This will force the Galvanis to do after-hours work duties or hire a nanny, she said.

“We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet, though [the coronavirus variants] seem to be getting more serious as well,” said Galvani. “We get more nervous when we put our kids in the classroom with potentially 30 kids for six hours a day with no air circulation and no masks.”

Two months ago, some Arizona parents protested at the Vail Unified School District board meeting in Tucson because district officials refused to lift their mask requirements after the governor ended the statewide mask mandate, local news station KVOA reported reported. Minutes before the meeting, the school district canceled the event over fears for the safety of board members.

“These are my rights as a parent and they cannot decide how I raise them and what I believe to be true and factual,” one parent told KVOA. “It’s disgusting what’s being done and I don’t agree with it.”

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In early May, the US Food and Drug Administration expanded Eligibility for youth ages 12 to 15, but younger children are not yet eligible. This places a heavy burden on families and children in this group, including unvaccinated students and children of color, who may be reluctant to return in person, said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association.

Black and Hispanic children are generally at increased risk for hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions, and underlying medical conditions, which the CDC says puts children of color at higher risk of contracting or dying from COVID-19. Additionally, compared to whites, people of color are more likely to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19.

“Schools must be able to ensure the safety of all students, educators and their families, and banning mask mandates goes against science, public health and common sense,” Pringle said in a statement state border.

But in Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott problematic an executive order in May barring state agencies, including school districts, from requiring students, teachers, staff and visitors to wear masks after June 4. Officials issuing a mandate can be fined $1,000.

“Texans, not the government, should establish their best health practices, which is why masks are not mandated by public school districts or government agencies,” Abbott said in a press release at the time. “We can continue to contain COVID-19 while defending the freedom of Texans to choose whether or not to mask.”

Abbott’s office did not respond state lines questions about the decision.

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Republican Governor Kim Reynolds in Iowa signed Legislation in May banning local cities and public and private schools from mandating masks.

In Idaho, GOP Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in May, during the governor’s absence, passed an executive order barring cities and schools from requiring masks. GOP Gov. Brad Little returned to the state and lifted the order a day later. saying it unlawfully deprived local leaders of their authority.

Many states have similarly given local school districts autonomy in making decisions.

Governors lifting their own mask mandates are within the legal limits given their powers under the state of emergency, said Paul Tapp, senior counsel for the Association of Texas Professional Educators. But governors banning schools from requiring one are more complicated.

“I haven’t seen or heard anyone argue that the governor doesn’t have the right to do that and I don’t know why that wasn’t the case [an issue]’ said Tap.

But Tapp added that he believes lawsuits against governors would fail because it would be difficult to find a legal basis to bring suit. The Association of Texas Professional Educators argues that decisions regarding schools should be made locally, he said. “What works, especially as a state with all kinds of demographics and sizes in Texas, where there’s everything from a schoolhouse in one district to a district with 1 million students, there’s no one-size-fits-all.”

In Arizona, state education associations like Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Education Association opposed the House of Representatives, saying regulations should be left to local leaders. Urban and rural communities have different needs, and infection rates vary between different communities, said Dawn Penich-Thacker, co-founder and spokesperson for Save Our Schools. The House of Representatives should not have passed a single bill, she added.

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas called it shocking that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives included the mask change in the budget bill.

“In a state where you have one of the lower vaccination rates, [no masks] becomes problematic because some parents are not sensitive to masks,” Thomas said. “And no matter how well you protect your child, no matter how small you make their social circle, no matter how often you wash your hands, wear a mask and think of everyone else when every other parent is. Not doing so and sending your child into the same small, crowded classroom your child is in is a risk.”

dr Sara Bode, primary care pediatrician and medical director of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Care Connection school-based health and mobile clinics, said she understands the importance of getting children back into buildings for emotional and academic growth. But she said the most important thing is that schools need support, such as B. Government funding, and masks are still an important mitigation strategy, especially for students with special health needs who are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

“This masking uniformity will help maintain compliance, inclusivity and a positive culture,” Bode said. “When [students with health needs] If you cannot be vaccinated for reasons of age or other health reasons, participation is not possible [in-person learning] if the school does not provide a safe environment.”

For parents struggling with whether to send children in person, Bodie advised speaking to their pediatrician and “looking at the entire circumstance and helping them counsel them about the risks and benefits.”

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