Parents contend mask mandate violates ‘liberties and freedoms’
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]
Many parents and community members attended the South Harrison Community School Corp.’s board of trustees’ meeting last Tuesday with a firm opinion about the new mask mandate: they don’t want it.
Masks are now required to be worn by all students and staff in the buildings and on school buses, but they are able to remove them when safely six feet apart. This mandate, according to Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge, will help eliminate unnecessary quarantine measures.
If students were masked and appear asymptomatic after coming in close contact with a positive case, no quarantine will be required as long as they remain asymptomatic. Vaccinated and asymptomatic students will also not have to quarantine, but simply monitor for symptoms.
Eastridge noted they are requiring masks simply to do all they can to keep students learning inside the school buildings rather than virtually.
South Harrison students collectively lost more than 36,000 instructional days last year as a result of COVID-19 quarantines, and the school board hopes to do all its can to not repeat that number this year.
However, many of those in attendance believe that requiring students to wear masks is against their “liberties and freedoms,” according to one parent.
“This is a free country,” said a parent who stood up during the meeting. “This is a bad situation and people have died, but people died from the flu. Students are a dollar bill to you all. We can teach them at home and then your funding is gone. So, let my kid take the risks because he wants to be free.”
Tamzen Edwards, a parent representing the South Harrison chapter of “Our Kids, Our Choice,” also spoke at the meeting and explained that she believes that wearing a mask drastically decreases a human’s oxygen level to an unhealthy amount.
However, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Systems in a study done in 2020, there is no proven risk of hypoxia, lowered oxygen levels, due to wearing a mask for an extended period of time.
“My oxygen level goes to 17% when I put a mask on,” Edwards said. “We are depriving our kids of oxygen. What you are doing is violating the first amendment, and we can’t allow our rights to be trampled. Give our kids their freedom back.”
Audience members applauded after numerous community members all spoke in protest to the recent mask mandate.
Cheryl Lone, a teacher at Corydon Central High School, spoke in support of the mandate and the corporation’s decision, however.
“I want kids at school,” Lone said. “I’m a teacher, and, if masks can keep kids in schools, I want that. I hated teaching virtual. It was so hard on myself and the students. If a mask keeps them in school, we need to wear masks.”
Eastridge took time during his superintendent comments to note the reason for the mandate is simply to keep students inside the buildings as much as possible and that he is in constant contact with the health department to continually evaluate numbers and determine how and when the mandate can be lifted.
“The new guidance with masking will allow us to miss the quarantines, which have been a negative impact to us,” Eastridge said. “I hope and pray we can get beyond where we are right now because it is not a good place for anyone right now.”
“I was a very good teacher; a lot of us on the board were,” board president Mary Mathes added to her comments. “However, I am not a doctor or a medical professional, and we have to trust them right now.”
The board is scheduled to meet again Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. at the corporation office in Corydon.