BALTIMORE — In a hours long virtual meeting Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Education heard from parents, students and public health experts about the emergency mask mandate for schools.
It was evident how controversial the mask mandate is. Many people spoke out passionately, for and against it.
“Children are our single most important contribution to this world and they deserve to go to school knowing that we are doing everything possible to keep them safe,” said Worcester County parent Raymond Russel.
Some were in support, while others want control given back to local school boards or to families.
“This is not a one size fits all pandemic. The mask and vaccine mandates take away our freedom to figure out what fits for our family,” said Carroll County parent Jessica Garland.
Teachers also took time during their school day to address the board.
“They cause a distraction and behavior issues. Students won’t keep them up and I waste a lot of my instructional time telling them to pull them which often results in disrespect, defiance and noncompliance,” said teacher Janelle Windlow, speaking against the mandate.
“I do not want to bring something home to my 3-year-old that I can’t control. I don’t want to possibly spread this disease to a child in this building who can’t get vaccinate because they are a chemo patient,” said teacher Veronica Golden, speaking for hte mandate.
Board members listened, asking questions and gathering information so they can reconvene in early December to decide how to move forward.
In addition to public comment, the board sought out opinions from education representatives.
The Maryland Association of Boards of Education president spoke in support of the mandate while the Carroll County Board of Education president asked it be lifted in January.
The president of the Maryland Association of Student Councils read aloud submissions from students across the state, the majority of which he said were for masking.
“Masks will not cause harm and is a more simple method to prevent the spread so people do not have to worry much about treating it,” read Justin Peleska.
MSDE data shows student cases have decreased in 14 out of 24 school districts looking at November compared to the beginning of the school year, where the first two weeks were not under the statewide mask mandate.
Public health experts talked about off ramps, once all children have had the opportunity to get fully vaccinated. They told the board it will be up to them to decide if the benefit outweighs all the negatives for social and emotional well-being for kids.
If the board decides not to make any changes next month, the mask mandate expires February 25.