A high school senior recently urged his local school board to stand strong in its decision to not mandate masks this year, saying forced masking has caused health issues, disrupted learning, and created a toxic school environment.
New Prague Area Schools, south of the Twin Cities, will not be requiring masks for the upcoming academic year. Currently, the district strongly recommends that anyone who is not fully vaccinated wear a mask while in school buildings, but no mandates are in place.
All 11 residents who spoke last week encouraged the school board to stay firm in its decision when or if Gov. Tim Walz or other authorities attempt to mandate masks statewide again.
A student who will be a senior in the district shared that he opposes mask mandates for many reasons.
Wearing a mask caused his allergies to flare up, as it did for several of his classmates. When he pulled his mask down or it slipped off a little, he was reprimanded by both students and teachers.
“A student called me killer, and a teacher told me that I was a danger to my friends,” he told the school board.
As a participant in choir and theater throughout high school, the student said these activities were taken from him last year.
“After countless precautions, including masking, we still did not get to perform for an audience for the musical last spring,” he noted.
He felt his education was “hindered” in his Spanish class, as well. Listening and lip reading, both big parts of learning a new language, were not of use when students and teachers were always masked, he said.
“Quite frankly, that hindered my education. And I am terrified to go into next year knowing less than I should know,” the student shared.
He also brought attention to the anxiety his generation goes through regardless of COVID-19 regulations.
“With constant social media usage in this day and age, my generation is already the most irrationally anxious generation,” he said. “Telling us that we will die if we don’t wear a cloth over our faces of a disease that poses nearly no threat to us will push us over the edge.”
He shared statistics showing the low risk of adverse effects from COVID on children and young people.
“With such a small risk, forcing muzzles on children like dogs all day is child abuse — physical abuse and mental abuse,” he continued.
He urged the school board to refrain from “appeasing Walz or the CDC” should they mandate masks in school in the future. Instead, he said, “Choose me. Choose the student body. Choose our rights to a great education. Choose freedom, for it is our American right, and we are counting on you to stand up for those rights.”
Ten other residents, consisting mostly of parents of students in the district, spoke against mask mandates at the meeting.
The room appeared to be full, with several people holding signs advocating for the freedom to choose whether to mask their children.
“Don’t coparent with the government” and “Our children, our choice,” read a few of the signs.
Two parents also raised concerns about critical race theory being brought into the district, imploring the school board to stay away from implementing CRT.
Minneapolis, St. Paul, Edina, Brooklyn Center, Duluth, and Sartell-St. Stephen are some of those requiring masks, among many others. Most districts are requiring face coverings regardless of vaccination status.