Last spring, with COVID vaccine distributed widely, we anticipated a fall school start where children’s hugs rekindled long-separated friendships, teenagers high-fived favorite teachers and everyone could cheer the football team from the stands. It would be a return to in-person instruction and excitement for teaching and learning.

The fall, however, has erupted in an explosion of anger at school board and county commission meetings amidst rising COVID infections with spikes among children. All this has killed the expectation of a fully productive school year.

CDC guidelines require masks inside school buildings, on buses and during school activities. The Kansas State Department of Education has recommend following the CDC guidelines. In Topeka, Perry-Lecompton, Wichita and at least 10 other school districts that include about 35 percent of the state’s students, masks are required, in many other districts “strongly encouraged.”

Yet, in Wichita, among scores of protesters to a county-wide mask mandate at a Sedgwick County meeting, an irate man threatened to protest outside homes of county commissioners. In the Shawnee Mission school district, two parents have sued challenging the district’s COVID protocols. The school district, upheld by a district court, is awaiting a Kansas Supreme Court hearing.

Nationally, the president of the American Federation of Teachers supports mandatory masks in schools. Eight states prohibit school districts from setting mask requirements while 14 states and the District of Columbia require masks be worn in schools. The remaining states have left the decision to each school district.

In the battle over mask mandates, just about everyone seems to be ignoring the real problem—COVID will not ultimately disappear. As long as the virus keeps circulating, it will keep evolving and vaccines will eventually become less effective while variants, like Delta, can become stronger. It’s not inconceivable that infection rates may grow so high that schools again will be closed.

School mask (if considered dress code) and school vaccine mandates (12 are currently required for Kansas six-year-olds) have withstood legal challenges at the U. S. Supreme Court level. But more than a legal or political issue, the battle over safe schools is an ethical concern about how we live as Kansans.

COVID frustration and anger are understandable, but public behavior should be civil and public schools should align with the direction of public officials.

In America, each of us have the choice to wear a mask or not; yet isn’t following the advice of health and education leaders the right thing to do?

What are we teaching our children when they see us shouting disrespectfully at public meetings or disregarding requests from schools? We are role-models to our children; that’s reason enough to make our behavior considerate.

There have been reports, although limited, that mask-wearing children are being bullied on the playground by the kids who don’t wear masks. This is a COVID-related safety issue that teachers shouldn’t have to deal with.

It’s only fair for those who refuse for their children to wear a mask to use another form of education such as online learning, home schooling or private schools that don’t require masks.

All of us should look at the reality of the situation and show gratitude for the ability to go back to in-person school, then focus on what we can do to fight COVID and hold our communities together.

(6) comments

MWS

In May 2020 the CDC researched the effectiveness of masks with the flu. The result? They do not prevent people from getting the flu or giving it to others. Fast forward to the vaccines. It is now obvious that the vaccines are the same. If you get the vaccine you run the risk of a serious side effect and it will not keep you from getting or sharing the virus. You still have to wear masks that don't work and social distance. The truth is that this virus was modified in the Wuhan lab. Wuhan is the #1 exporter of Fentanyl and Covid to the U.S. It is not going away and cannot be stopped. Parents are right to be outraged that their grade school kids have to wear masks that have been proven to be unhealthy to children. Common sense has abandoned our society. You can't make this stuff up: China sent us the virus and then makes billions selling us Covid test kits and masks to contain it. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Justice81

Hey, I had the Vaccine (2 shots in January). I am doing great! I do accept people's legitimate opposition to Vaccines--If they have reject all vaccines in their lives. But, the real opposition to Vaccines is POLITICAL! Thus, if you refuse a vaccine for Political Reasons, and you do get the Virus, and you die--GOOD RIDDANCE!

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Justice81

You are repeating lies! Republicans have gotten great repeating lies!!

Justice81

Yes, they do PREVENT people from getting the Virus....no, not all, but, they greatly reduce the chance. Also, people don't wear masks all the time, and are in contact with people who don't. So, it is a REPEATED LIE Masks don't work! LIE...because of Political Reasons. And, those REPEATING THAT LIE...are BY FAR, Republicans! And, those Republicans don't care how many people get the Virus and Die, or become severely Ill! Note: I read only the first 2-3 lines....OF THE REPEATED LIE.

FreeLunch

Sharon Hartin Iorio is Dean Emerita Wichita State University College of Education.

create

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