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School districts across United States end mask mandates for students in growing numbers

As the debate over wearing masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 continues, many school districts have made the decision to end the mask mandate. 

After pressure from parents, a Santa Rosa County, Florida school board voted unanimously to make masks optional for all grades effective immediately. Cynthia Licharowicz, a Milton, Florida, parent who opposed Santa Rosa County’s rule, said, “The mask is a personal choice, and I wore it at the beginning, but I just decided that it wasn’t about the mask anymore. So I decided to take it off, and I wanted my child to have the same choice.” 

Other schools districts in states from Alabama to Wyoming also decided to ditch mask mandates. Many more are expected to do so before the start of next school year in the fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently says that schools “should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing.” The Food and Drug Administration this week approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for children as young as twelve. CDC data shows that infection rates for individuals aged 14-17 are now higher than for all Americans while the rates among children aged 6-13 are nearing the national average. 

Santa Rosa, FL has a 28,000-student district where the debate got so heated that sheriffs escorted multiple attendees out of the meeting, including at least one who was shouting profanities at board members. Hailei Smead, a mother of three students who runs a Facebook group for parents to oppose mask requirements, says, “It’s not society’s job to protect every other individual. It’s your own job to protect yourself and your own family” (US News). With growing pushback from parents, many more schools are expected to ditch the mask mandate by the fall. 

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ARTICLE: EVA SALGADO

POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS

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