The dynamic of the school mask debate has changed with the new guidance from the CDC on mask effectiveness. New studies have shown that cloth masks are no more effective than N95 respirators in schools.
This guidance is important because the N95 respirator protects its wearers regardless of what others are doing. If it was ever true, the old argument that “my mask protects your face and your mask protects mine” is no longer relevant.
Three of the most renowned doctors from three top university hospitals in the nation have published an opinion piece in the Washington Post advocating the removal of masks in schools.
In the beginning, doctors supported masking policies based on what was available at the time. This has now changed.
However, universal masking policies at schools are not free of cost. Children have been missing their classmates and teachers in certain areas of the country since 2020, even though CDC mask guidelines were strictly followed. This has a negative impact on learning, and development, especially for our youngest learners. Children, their families, and staff are also sent the message that schools cannot be trusted by maintaining aggressive mitigation policies. This includes strict mask rules. This is simply false.
Then, a disturbing pattern emerged: “punitive masque culture.”
Parents of school-aged children have noticed a troubling pattern, particularly during the omicron surge. It is called punitive mask culture. This can take many forms. For example, detentions or suspensions have been handed out to older children for “mask slippage” (or improper mask-wearing). To reduce the spread of covid-19, strict rules have been applied to younger children. This is often the only time they are not required to wear masks during school lunch. Some children must eat in total silence at mealtimes. Some have an “expedited” lunch. Others are told to take a bite and then pull the mask back up to chew. Activities that are intended to relieve stress such as recess or gym have been stopped due to the possibility of increased exhalation.
Surprise, surprise! Hopkinton High School, Massachusetts, reported something strange when it made mask-wearing optional. is located in Massachusetts and boasts a 98% vaccination rate. gives a glimpse at what happens when students have the option to switch from mandatory to optional masking. The school’s brief pilot with masking-optional masking revealed that smiling is more infectious than covid-19. A survey of students showed that 70% said that the policy had improved their learning experience and that they were happier. This is something mask-optional school districts know for months. Parents have been fighting for “one-way” masking.
The omicron waves will soon be gone and we can all expect quieter times this spring, barring any new variants. We encourage school and public health officials to inform communities about one-way masking. This will emphasize personal choice in self-protection, and support those who choose to stay masked. Staff should spend their time and energy policing the use of masks rather than educating and supporting children. It is time to stop worrying about what other people are doing and start focusing on our own safety. Our tools are more advanced than they were in 2020. Policies should reflect this change.
Our children have made a great sacrifice to protect us. It’s now that we can give our children their childhood back.
“Personal choice,” “supporting others who choose to remain hidden …” Sounds like freedom. Maybe freedom is spreading to all schools.