Parents, Politicians, and School Administrators Battle Over Masks for Kids
Fights over masks in schools are heating up. Schools have become the locus of public health battles and political drama surrounding masks, with students caught as pawns in this pathetic battle. In an ideal world, both private and public schools could set their own local rules, based on the specific circumstances (coronavirus case levels, physical facility considerations, community wishes, student ages, etc.) with which they’re grappling, and school choice programs would let disapproving parents easily send their kids elsewhere.
But we live in a world where many families are locked into one schooling option, and both local administrators and state authorities want dominion over kids’ faces within that school. Hence, an increasing array of court battles concerning who gets to decide whether schools require masks.
In Texas—where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott declared it off-limits for school districts to independently make decisions about mask requirements and several districts declared an intent to defy him—the matter has spurred several legal battles. “A patchwork of lawsuits, temporary restraining orders and court hearings is sparking confusion over mask mandates as families prepare to send their children back to school,” The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday. On Sunday, the Texas Supreme Court issued a temporary blow to Dallas and Bexar counties, which had announced plans to order school mask mandates in spite of Abbott’s order.
On Tuesday, Disability Rights Texas filed the latest challenge against Abbott’s mask mandate ban. “In spite of national and local guidance urging precaution, Governor Abbott’s Executive Order prohibits local school districts from even considering whether to implement the most basic and effective COVID-19 prevention strategy in school settings,” the suit complains, alleging that this prevents students with certain disabilities from safe schooling options.
Texas is one of nine states where school mask mandates have been banned, according to a USA Today analysis. Conversely, 12 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico say all schools must require masks, and New Mexico says masks are required for students who are unvaccinated.
Most states still allow flexibility; some 28 are leaving it up to local school districts.
But in states where mask mandates are mandatory or disallowed, many people have become quite acrimonious.
In Florida, a group of parents is challenging an executive order from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis forbidding schools from requiring masks. On Monday, the state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. “The Governor and Surgeon General carefully balanced the legitimate state interests of school safety, educational well-being, and parental rights,” the motion says.
“It is in the best interests of the State to empower Florida parents with the right to manage the healthcare of their children,” the state argues. “This includes the freedom to choose whether they must be masked in public schools.”
However, several large Florida school districts have announc
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