Smith-Rouse: Mask mandate the right thing for schools to do to protect children

August 10, 2021 | 12:06 am

Updated August 9, 2021 | 10:57 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

Dear Editor,

When I learned that a group of individuals was planning a protest to oppose the Daviess County Public School system’s decision to require masks for all students, faculty, and staff, I was baffled and broken-hearted. Although there was not an organized rally/protest in favor/support of the mask mandate for various reasons (work and an effort to maintain social distancing being the most prevalent), there are many in Owensboro-Daviess County who support the school system’s decision to protect our children. I am writing this letter to openly express my viewpoint and the viewpoint of a few others as to why it is crucial that all individuals be required to wear a mask in an indoor school/classroom setting. 

When someone holds different opinions than that of my own, I genuinely try to listen to their viewpoint to understand better where they are coming from and at times even learn a thing or two as (don’t tell my husband) I am not always right. The issue of the mask mandate was no different, and I listened to why they opposed the mandate. I heard various opinions ranging from “my body, my choice” to breathing your own CO2 can be deadly, and some even said that it was illegal for the school system to make such requirements and that it was a violation of their rights. While I do not want this letter to be argumentative (as I have a 6-year-old who likes to argue for pleasure), I do want to address some of those misconceptions. 

To start “my body, my choice” in this situation is irrelevant as you do have the choice not to wear a mask, just as an establishment has the choice to not allow you in their establishment. Just like most places have done with shoes and shirts hence the well-known signs that state NO shoes NO shirt NO service. I would bet that if you sent your child to school without pants on, that too would be an issue. Prior to COVID-19, there were many professions (doctors, nurses, etc.) that required individuals to wear masks for long periods of time, and there were never such claims of masks causing one to be poisoned by their own CO2. According to Dr. Gregory Schmidt, Critical Care Medicine Specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, masks do not decrease your oxygen or increase your CO2 intake as oxygen and CO2 are small and can go through the mask. At the same time, droplets are large and cannot go through (Schmidt, 2020). Lastly, school districts have maintained some form of dress code for as long as most people can remember. Think that schools are violating your child’s rights by requiring a mask? Talk to any person who has been sent home or reprimanded by their school for having a dress that is too short or showing too much shoulder.

There are many reasons for one to support the school system’s decision to require masks. Travis Petit believes “masks protect a large community of people such as immunocompromised people, elderly, children, toddlers, and infants who have no vaccines available.” He believes that wearing a mask is a precautionary measure we should take for those who need us the most. 

Chad Gesser believes that the best thing for his 7-year-old daughter’s social interaction is to learn in person with children her own age. Since his daughter is too young to receive the vaccine, he believes that masks are a must as they are proven to be effective in reducing the potential transmission and spread of COVID-19. 

Dr. Angela Ash, a Professor of History at OCTC, believes “It is critical for our students to be back in the classroom and getting the vaccine and wearing a mask is the best defense against the Delta variant and any potential variants. Cases are rising all over the nation, and if we want to keep our schools open and our students, teachers, and staff safe, the data indicates that wearing masks is the surest means to do so.” 

Julia Campbell believes “Masking is a non-invasive way for every child to do their part to stop the spread [of COVID-19] and keep the health of the school at a level where in-person [learning] can continue.” 

For me personally, it is a combination of the multiple perspectives from above. As the father of medically complex children, my children could be negatively affected or even killed by your child if they were without a mask and transmitted COVID-19 to them. Your child is SAFE in a mask; my children are NOT safe when yours is not in a mask. My child does not have the choice to not have kidney issues or cancer. I should not have to keep my child out of school because there are individuals who deem a mask to be inconvenient or uncomfortable. 

As a parent who has seen some of my children fall behind academically due to impromptu virtual learning, I believe that it is imperative that our children be in person. At this time, the safest way to do that for most people is for everyone to be in a mask. As Geralyn Caplan put it, “I think it is a no-brainer. Until we can improve the vaccination rates, we owe it to children to take precautions with their health. Masks will slow the spread, which means fewer children in the ICU.”

Additionally, requiring all students to wear masks reduces the stigma and bullying potential that the students who must wear a mask (mandate or not) may face. If a few students are masked while the school at large is not, they may become the target for bullying and ridicule. But if everyone is in a mask, It removes that possibility while keeping them safe.

In closing, first, I would like to take this time to thank the Daviess County Public School System for listening and following local, state, and national guidance on the mask requirement and keeping our children safe. Second, I would like to thank everyone who discussed the mask requirement with me, both those who are quoted in this letter and those who are not. Lastly, I would like to ask everyone (on both sides of the issue) to be kind and remember that our children listen to the things we say (even when we think they are not). At the end of the day, we are community members and school/classmates who must exist together regardless of our beliefs. 

Thank you for your time,
Antoine L. Smith-Rouse

Reference:
Schmidt, G. A. (2020, November 24). Do face masks make you retain carbon dioxide? University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. https://uihc.org/health-topics/do-face-masks-make-you-retain-carbon-dioxide. 

August 10, 2021 | 12:06 am

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