Local Parents Fight to “Unmask” Children as Kids Go Back to School Amid COVID Surge
As students gear up to go back to school as safely as possible during this fourth surge of COVID-19, a group of local parents is doing everything in their power to make sure their kids aren't forced to wear a mask.
In the weeks leading up to the 2021-22 school year, the debate over masks in school has been a heated one.
Many school systems in the Acadiana area, including the Lafayette Parish School System, have plans in place for COVID-19 that are in step with state and CDC guidelines. This means all LPSS employees and all students in grades Pre-K through 12 are required to wear masks.
Some parents are speaking out, saying they don't want to put their children through the stress of having to wear a mask all day long. Other parents have voiced that their issue with facemasks is that they simply don't like being told what to do or what decisions to make for their children.
Local health officials are concerned with back to school in the midst of this fourth surge due to the Delta variants affecting young people at a much higher rate than the first three surges of coronavirus. According to Dr. William Lennarz, Pediatric System Director at Ochsner Health, masking up "should help students returning to in-person classes and their families limit exposure to COVID-19."
Parents who feel like there is "no proof" of masks keeping kids safe are pushing back against the requirements—some organizing in groups like "Unmask Our Children Vermilion Parish." The Facebook group is public and has just under 500 members.
Parents share links and information in the public Facebook group related to their argument that masks shouldn't be worn in schools.
Multiple videos and websites are also shared in the group, but not all of the sources are verified to be credible—much like everything else we see floating around on social media.
Some of the links in the group even have information that has been flagged as partly false.
But it doesn't stop parents from sharing content on the page encouraging other parents to "join the fight to unmask our kids."
Some parents even organized to make signs and protest on the first day of school.
While there seem to be a few hundred people in the Facebook group, the most active users make up for about a dozen or so people who continue to share links and messaging to support their quest to do away with masks being mandatory in school.
There are also memes—like this one that mocks children and school employees that wear their masks in compliance with safety guidelines.
Members of the group also use the platform to share information, documents, and forms similar to the ones provided by AG Jeff Landry "sto try and exempt their kids from the mask mandate."
Speaking of the forms provided by AG Jeff Landry, father of four Brandon Rodrigue was interviewed by our media partners at KATC. The father stated that he is Native American, and wearing the mask goes beyond his beliefs.
The school board is discriminating on us people that have religious beliefs. Not just that, but also philosophical beliefs as well.
Rodrigue called the documents "legit."
In addition to public groups, there are also similar groups on Facebook like 'Parents Against Mask Mandates in Louisiana' that choose to be private, but all have the same goal of keeping their children mask-free during this fourth surge of the COVID-19.
Parents like these aren't exclusive to Louisiana by any means, as you can see in this video from Tennessee went viral on Wednesday morning.
As school ramps up for the bulk of Acadiana and COVID numbers continue to soar, people like Vermilion Superintendent Tommy Byler are asking parents to understand the "undertaking" that schools are going through right now to open up during a time like this.
He also points out that the school level isn't necessarily the ideal route for these parents to see any actual change when it comes to masking guidelines in their respective school districts.
I am asking for complete cooperation with this mandate at our school sites, and it is my hope that we have no distractions for the first day of school intake. This is already a major undertaking for our schools, so I hope that you respect our school personnel by honoring the mandate as written. Your philosophical differences with the mandate are understandable, but the school level is not an avenue for getting things changed.
It should also be noted that there are also plenty of parents who aren't pushing back on any mask mandates and are actually relieved that face coverings are required as they continue to do their best to keep their family and their household as safe as possible.
Will there be more disruptions or distractions that hinder schools from opening back up smoothly for the fall semester? Only time will tell—but until anything changes, the mask mandate is in place and back-to-school time is here.
Feel free to share your opinions as well as your personal experience—especially if you have children going back to school in the Acadiana area.