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Sens. to propose ‘opt-out’ for mask mandates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendation is “universal indoor masking” for K-12 schools.

A proposal forthcoming in the General Assembly would give parents — rather than health experts, school districts or the state — the ability to make that decision for their children.

State Sens. Doug Mastriano and Judy Ward, both Republicans, would allow parents to “opt-out” of any school’s mask mandates.

“As we approach the upcoming school year, a number of K-12 school districts around the state have already declared that they will be enforcing mask mandates for all students in the fall,” the senators asset in a legislative memo. “These mandates are being implemented despite limited data that clearly demonstrates the benefits of mask-wearing in a school setting.”

The issue was part of an Aug. 6 hearing where, according to video of the proceedings, Mastriano presented findings from a German study that found 68 percent of 25,000 students studied had some kind of physical or psychological issue from wearing a mask.

Health Secretary Allison Beam responded that masks provide “another layer” to both preventing transmission but also preserving in-person education.

“We are in a difficult spot given where this legislature has put us,” she said, citing recent state constitutional amendments. “I would ask, ‘How do you and your colleagues … anticipate protecting students and teachers … to make sure we can preserve in-person education.”

“Parents need to make the choice,” Mastriano fired back, claiming that parents know better than the state or anyone else.

“I want to leave it in the hands of the parents.”

“Our legislation will mandate all school districts to develop — and abide by — a form that will allow parents and legal guardians to sign off on ‘opting-out’ their child from a mask mandate,” the legislative memo states. “Furthermore, the form must clearly state that the child is not to be isolated, separated from classmates, or otherwise left out of participation in school activities.”

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