“That’s enough”: at the request of the parents, some students of the elementary school of La Jolla unmask themselves in class

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To hammer home their dissatisfaction with the continued indoor mask mandate in public schools, a few parents at La Jolla Elementary School had their children unmasked on Feb. 17 and refused to comply with the policy.

The protest was organized by La Jollan Jeff Holman in response to the state’s announcement this week that schoolchildren will have to remain masked indoors until at least Monday, Feb. 28.

The San Diego Unified School District, which operates La Jolla’s five public schools, lifted its outdoor mask mandate effective Feb. 16, but said masks would still be required inside schools at least until at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the state this week changed its mask rule for the general public to allow people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 to unmask indoors in most public places, excluding environments. such as hospitals, nursing homes and public transport.

Holman used social media posts and emails to other parents at La Jolla Elementary to encourage them to ask their children to remove their masks at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 17 and refuse to put them back on when instructed.

“If they face disciplinary action, so be it,” Holman’s post said. “Please join us in ending this unjust continuation of an absurd policy that is harming our children.”

“Enough is enough,” Holman told the La Jolla Light. “People have just finished, and these ‘two more weeks’…we’ve been hearing this for two years now.”

Social networking site Nextdoor later deleted Holman’s post and informed him that the post “has been determined to violate our community guidelines on our coronavirus misinformation policy.”

Holman said her second-grade son and fifth-grade daughter participated in the protest, along with another student. The three children were taken to the school office and told to sit outside to complete their homework. They were normally sent back at the end of the school day.

Holman’s daughter said she felt ‘it was important for me to be a part of this because…adults didn’t have to wear their masks in their workspaces, but kids still have to. at school”.

She said the disparity “makes no logical sense to me because children are less affected by COVID than adults.”

She said she was initially conflicted about her participation, but ultimately felt like she “did the right thing. … I’m really proud of myself.

LJES director Stephanie Hasselbrink said she was unable to confirm the number of participating students, but added that she was “worried that our students and staff are being put in the middle of a problem that has nothing to do with our mission to educate our students.

“Like all San Diego Unified schools, La Jolla Elementary follows the California Department of Public Health’s guidelines for K-12 schools, which require all individuals to be masked indoors in a school setting,” a said Hasslebrink.

She said LJES staff provide their students with “a supportive and loving environment. I have never seen a team that cares so much about children and families.

Holman said he had expected his children to be disciplined for “willful disobedience,” but later was unsure if any action would be taken.

According to San Diego Unified spokesperson Mike Murad, all parents signed a form at the start of the school year acknowledging that “by selecting on-site instruction, parents/guardians and students agree to abide by applicable public health orders, requirements, rules and regulations. and guidelines directed by the California Department of Public Health, San Diego County Department of Public Health, District, and other government authorities to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Students who violate the mask mandate must be sent home, according to the agreement. Murad was unable to immediately respond whether disciplinary action would follow.

Parents who object to the mask mandate can transition their children to off-campus independent study, Hasselbrink said.

Candace Barry, whose two sons attend LJES in second and fourth grade, said she asked her children to participate in the unmasking protest because “our children have been the least affected by this pandemic since the very, very beginning. . So how come they’re the only ones who still have to cover their faces? »

Her sons ultimately did not participate, she said. One was away in physical education class at the time and the other opted out at the last minute.

District officials and parents who support the mandate say it helps slow the spread of the coronavirus and thus helps keep schools open for in-person instruction.

But Holman said it was “shameful that we have collectively tolerated” mask mandates for so long. “Our children will ask us in 10 years how we could be so apathetic,” he said.

Holman said he would keep his children in school and not opt ​​for independent study, though he hopes protests like this “will be enough to get the state to act.” ◆

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