(by Harriet Alexander, UK Daily Mail) – A ten-year-old student in Florida has delivered an impassioned plea to his local school board to lift their face mask mandate…
The fourth grader at Felix A. Williams Elementary in the town of Stuart, 40 miles north of West Palm Beach, spoke before the Martin County school board on May 12.
The student, whose name is John, said that he was “surprised by the rules.”
“A lot of them didn’t make any sense to me like the fact that we’re not allowed to play on the playground or have student council or turn to face each other at lunch. And we also have to wear masks outside at P.E. and on track.”
Under the district’s current policy, students are required to wear masks on school campuses and school buses, with the only exceptions being when they’re eating and drinking or during recess and physical education – suggesting John’s school was going beyond the recommendations.
The state of Florida removed its mask mandate on May 3 (but left it up to local school boards to implement their own mask/covid policies).
Governor Ron DeSantis had already removed statewide restaurant capacity restrictions in September 2020 – although many businesses imposed or held onto restrictions since then.
Okeechobee County school district has made face masks optional, but recommended, while Indian River County school district is keeping their mask mandate for now.
John implored the Martin County school board to remove the mask mandate in his school.
“I miss seeing people’s faces,” he said. “I miss the way things used to be. I’m scared they’ll never go back to normal.”
“Breathing freely doesn’t seem like something we should have to ask any other people for permission for.”
He said that he often saw his teachers flouting the rules, and yet he and his fellow students had their names taken if they were not wearing their masks correctly. One teacher berated students for lowering their masks to sip water.
“It seems unfair that teachers take their masks off while they yell at us kids, and we need to pull ours up,” he said. “I asked my mom if there’s a word for this and she said there is – hypocrisy.”
John told the board during the meeting – which lasted for several hours, with parents, teachers and health “experts” all giving their views – that wearing a mask in class made him ill. He said he had allergies, and felt it was unfair that his asthmatic teacher was given permission to not wear her mask.
“Wearing a mask all day makes me feel really tired and gives me really bad headaches. Sometimes I’m at school and I need to lay low in the dark until they’re gone,” he said.
“My mask also sticks to my face when it’s hot and it makes it hard to breathe. I feel like I can’t catch my breath and that makes me feel claustrophobic and anxious. It’s really stressful.”
Rachel Meier, who has children within the district, told TCPalm that the decision should be left to parents.
“We’re out here trying to be heard in saying we don’t want our kids masked anymore,” she said. “It’s our right as a parent to decide what to do with our child when it comes to their health.”
The chair of the school board, Marsha Powers, said the decision was not about individual students but rather the school district community, which includes teachers, custodians and bus drivers.
“I’m tired of masks, too, but I wear my mask out of respect for those who are fearful,” she said. “As a School Board member, we have to look out for the entirety of the people that we serve.”
John ended by asking the school board members:
“Please make masks optional today. It would be so awesome to end the school year on a really happy note like that.”
The school board ultimately voted 4-1 to keep the mask mandate in place until June 1, when the school year ends.
Published at dailymail .co .uk on May 18, 2021. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission.
NOTE: Watch the videos under “Resources” below before answering the questions.
1. List the who, what, where and when of the news story.
2. What rules at John’s school – Felix A. Williams Elementary in Stuart, Florida – don’t make sense to him?
3. a) What is the Martin County school district policy on masks?
b) How does John’s school’s mask policy differ from that of the school district?
4. What double-standard does this 10-year-old see?
5. Students in John’s school must keep their masks on for 7 hours a day, with the exception of eating lunch. John notes, “Breathing freely doesn’t seem like something we should have to ask any other people for permission for.” Do you agree with his assertion? Explain your answer.
6. The 4th grader also told the school board members:
“Wearing a mask all day makes me feel really tired and gives me really bad headaches. Sometimes I’m at school and I need to lay low in the dark until they’re gone. My mask also sticks to my face when it’s hot and it makes it hard to breathe. I feel like I can’t catch my breath and that makes me feel claustrophobic and anxious. It’s really stressful.”
a) How did school board chairman Marsha Powers (who does not participate in P.E. or recess) respond to John’s experience?
b) What do you think of this school board leader’s response?
7. What do you think?
Should the Florida governor issue an executive order similar to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s – which states that public schools can no longer require masks on their campuses starting June 5? Explain your answer.
8. a) When should school districts across the country end mask mandates? — Immediately, at the end of this school year, in 2022, never…? Explain your answer.
b) For these local decisions, should a 10 member school board, the faculty and staff of a school, or the parents make the decision about ending mask mandates for students? Explain your answer.
OPTIONAL: What do you think of the school board’s treatment of John’s father when he attempted to express his opinion at the school board meeting?
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a letter to Florida’s school superintendents last Wednesday that mask use is a personal choice and schools should make mask use voluntary.
In the letter, Corcoran says school districts should amend their policies for the 2021-22 school year to make masks optional.
“With this return, we ask that districts, which currently are implementing a mandated face-covering policy, revise their policy to be voluntary for the 2021-2022 school year,” the letter said in part.
In the letter, Corcoran said the Department of Education had reviewed data from across the state and did not find a correlation between sweeping mask mandates and the presence of COVID-19 in schools.
“Broad sweeping mandatory face-covering policies serve no remaining good at this point in our schools,” the letter said.
“Upon reviewing the policies of those districts with mandatory face covering policies, reviewing all districts relevant health data, and factoring in such data points as the percentage of students learning in-person and the relative population of a county (which is often synonymous with a county’s community health resources), the data shows us that districts’ face covering policies do not impact the spread of the virus.”
Special mention was made for disabled or English learning students that are adversely affected by mask mandates.
“Mandatory face-covering policies inhibit peer-to-peer learning in our classrooms and they may also unintentionally create a barrier for students and families who would otherwise choose in-person instruction if such a policy were not in place. Such policies may also impede instruction in certain cases, especially for students with disabilities and English language learners who benefit from viewing a teacher’s face and mouth.”
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