Unmasking school choice

Unmasking school choice

Mask mania, notably in schools, has become an epidemic, and needs to be dealt with. Children certainly are not Covid “super-spreaders,” very rarely get the disease, and almost never die from it. In fact, a Johns Hopkins study released in June found that “100% of pediatric COVID-19 deaths were in children with a pre-existing condition.” So, assuming vaccines are effective, I can only surmise that forced masking of children is a way to protect unvaccinated adults, which is a form of child abuse. (Statistics do show an uptick in pediatric cases for the “Delta variant,” but it is spreading most rapidly in areas where greater numbers of adults are not vaccinated.)

Just for a little perspective on Covid’s danger to children – as of August 11th, just 121 5-14 year-olds have died from it, yet 250 in that age cohort have died from pneumonia. Additionally, in 2016 over 4,000 children and adolescents died in motor vehicle accidents.

Importantly, the mask hawks never acknowledge the downside of forcing face coverings on children. A study published in June in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the wearing of masks by children “leads to an increase in carbon dioxide levels in both inhaled and exhaled air while wearing a mask.” In addition, masks can become saturated with viruses and bacteria from diseases, such as tuberculosis, meningitis, pneumonia, etc.

And the possible side effects of masks are not just physical. Neeraj Sood, director of the COVID Initiative at USC, and Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford, maintain that masking “is a psychological stressor for children and disrupts learning.” The doctors assert that covering the lower half of the face reduces the ability to communicate. In particular, children lose the experience of mimicking expressions, an essential tool of nonverbal communication. “Positive emotions such as laughing and smiling become less recognizable, and negative emotions get amplified. Bonding between teachers and students takes a hit. Overall, it is likely that masking exacerbates the chances that a child will experience anxiety and depression, which are already at pandemic levels themselves.”

Even Covid Bloviator-in-Chief, Anthony Fauci, is hedging on masks, saying that “hopefully” making young kids wear face masks won’t have any “lasting negative impact” on them.

Masking has become a bitter political football. Overall, according to researcher Corey De Angelis, ten states – all run by Democrats, most with strong teachers unions – are now requiring all public school students to wear masks. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear has signed an executive order “requiring all teachers, staff and students in k-12 schools, child care and pre-Kindergarten programs across Kentucky to wear a mask indoors.” On a similar note, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state will “mandate students in preschool through 12th grade, as well as staff members and visitors, to wear masks inside all schools when the new academic year begins.”

But right-leaning states are prohibiting school districts from forcing kids to wear masks this school year. In Florida, for example, Gov. Ron DeSantis has a signed an executive order banning schools from requiring students to wear masks.

Not surprisingly, many parents in Kentucky and New Jersey are furious over the mask mandate. By the same token, there are pro-mask parents and school boards in Florida who are up in arms over DeSantis’ executive order. But the Sunshine State has found a middle ground. The Florida Department of Education has issued a rule making students who suffer “COVID-19 harassment” eligible for a Hope Scholarship that allows them to attend another (public or private) school of their parents’ choosing. Families will have access their children’s state-funded education dollars (about $7,200) to attend a private school through the existing Hope Scholarship Program.

DeSantis’ Press Secretary Christina Pushaw explains, “If parents wanted their kids to go to school with a mask mandate and there was a private school that had one, they can use the Hope Scholarship to send their kids there. It goes both ways.” Established in 2018, Florida’s Hope Scholarship was created for k-12 students who are enrolled in a public school, and have been “bullied, harassed, assaulted, threatened and or other violent acts to transfer to another public school or enroll in an approved private school.”

The mask wars, if nothing else, have given us yet another reason to embrace parental choice in education. Leaving decisions about schooling to central planning bureaucrats and teacher union bosses who believe their one-size-fits-all mandates can somehow serve all families is pure folly. The zip-code mandated education regimen is a living dinosaur that needs to go the way of its ancestors.

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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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