As COVID-19 pandemic recedes and Illinois public school officials work to prepare plans for the 2021-2022 school year, some parents are calling for an end to face coverings in schools.
“I am against requiring our kids to wear masks next year,” Jennifer Clark told the Oswego School District 308 Board of Education at its June 7 meeting. “Masks don’t work.”
Citing emails from U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director and Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci released under a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA), Clark told the board that masks are ineffective and do not protect wearers.
“I know that the pro-mask argument has been that we all need to wear masks because we don’t know who is asymptomatic and that they could spread the virus to everyone they come in contact with. However, we are now learning again from Dr. Fauci...that asymptomatic spread is very rare and not the predominant method of spreading COVID.”
District 308 has announced several details of its plan for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, including limitations on remote learning. However, the district has not yet released information concerning the use of face coverings by students and staff.
Children, Clark told the board, have been one of the age groups least affected by COVID-19, with a “99.997% chance of survival.”
“And yet we force them to mask up. For what?” she asked. “We know they will recover from the virus, but will they recover from wearing the mask?”
Clark continued, “Masks are dehumanizing. They erase our facial expressions and discourage communication. Children need to see what adults and other kids are feeling. Part of socialization comes from reading and interpreting facial expressions of others.
“Academically, how can children in a regular classroom learn speech nuances and letter sounds without being able to observe the movement of lips and emotion in the face? We are delaying our children’s learning abilities when it comes to reading.”
Clark also questioned the developmental impact of children wearing face coverings, saying, “Our children are being isolated and they feel alone.”
Over the last six months Clark said that her children have hidden behind masks, becoming less social and more withdrawn “because they are no longer able to socialize with their friends at school.”
“They can’t work on those lifelong skills of making new friends and starting conversations with people because they feel like they are being withheld behind this mask.”
Clark’s junior high-age student told her that near the end of the school year, children stopped attending school in-person because “there wasn’t any point.”
“No one could talk to each other, you had to sit so many feet apart, and you had to be on your Chromebook anyway during class. They just stopped going because they weren’t getting that social aspect of attending school. This must change,” she said.
Clark acknowledged the district is following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education and the state of Illinois, which in turn take guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, but pointed out that guidance is not a law.
“We elect you to represent us and do what is in the best interest of our children, not the ISBE,” she said, asking the board to put parents “back in the driver’s seat” for their students’ health, by returning to school with no masks and minimal to no social distancing.
“Let adults protect themselves as they see fit, and let parents decide whether a mask is appropriate for their children,” Clark continued, saying that wearing a mask should be a choice and not a requirement.
In her remarks, Clark also voiced her opposition to having unvaccinated children wear masks and letting vaccinated children go mask-free.
“To segregate students based on vaccination status is just another way to cause division and insecurity in our kids,” she said, highlighting students who may be unable to receive the vaccine for medical reasonings. “The elementary kids might not think much of it, but believe me it will be a big deal in junior high and high school...by requiring them to wear masks, you are putting a big sign on them that singles them out from their peers.
“I’m sure there are a lot of kids that can handle being different, but there are some students that cannot. And it will have emotional consequences like depression, isolation or worse - like something is wrong with them.”