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Parents present mask concerns to school board

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Three parents of Chilton County School students addressed the Board of Education during a Sept. 16 meeting with concerns about the recent mask requirements.

Each had contacted the school system in time to be on the agenda.

The requirement that had been in place at schools with 10% or higher exposure rate to COVID-19 will be lifted Sept. 20, since the numbers have gone down.

Isabella High School parent Katie Collins said there are doctors on both sides of the issue, so parents should be able to choose whether their student wears one or not.

“My children were sent home because I refused to put a mask on them, but the same people who sent my children home have been either maskless or wearing their mask improperly at times inside the school buildings, at rallies inside the gym, at sporting events and at football games,” Collins said. “I am not a hypocrite, and I won’t play their games.”

She said faculty and staff should face the same consequences as the students. She said the focus on masks was getting in the way of students getting a good education and “doing more harm than good.”

She said many of her family members have had COVID-19, but masks give “a false sense of security.”

She acknowledged that many have died from COVID-19.

“It does not give men the right to impose on my rights as an American,” Collins said. “People want to make statements ‘it’s only a mask’ or ‘I am tired of hearing them whine because their freedoms are being stripped away’, but how dare you. We just had 13 soldiers die on foreign soil to protect your right to make an appalling statement like that. I am earnestly asking American patriots, don’t let those men and women that died for our country be in vain.”

She asked that the mandates be ended and the school system get back to educating students.

IHS parent Sunny Veazy said her son had been excited about kindergarten until the mask requirement was in place, now he dislikes school and says he cannot breathe with the mask on.

“Sometimes he won’t even take it off to get a drink because he is afraid he will get in trouble,” Veazy said. “I feel that no government official or school board should determine what is best for my child’s physical and mental health, that is my duty as a parent. I feel like you are emotionally and psychologically damaging my child.”

She pointed out that Gov. Kay Ivey and the attorney general have said there would not be a statewide requirement for students to wear masks.

“Why are we forcing it, if the state leaders are not enforcing it,” Veazy said.

She asked that the decision be left up to parents.

Parent B.J Giles acknowledged school officials are not going to be able to please everyone, but he did not agree with how the recent mask mandate was handled because parent feedback was not sought.

He said the issue is dividing the community, and something needs to be done to keep it from tearing people apart. However, he also talked about the importance of personal choice.

“At this point, in this country, we cannot let our rights slip away,” Giles said. “As small as it may seem to some, it is pretty big to me and several others.”

He also mentioned that there have been “double standards” in how the mask requirements have been enforced.

Each speaker’s comments were met with applause from supporters in the audience.

Griffin thanked all of those who spoke for being respectful.

Community member Allen Williams asked Griffin about the decision to require masks at certain schools and why he had the authority to do this, instead of it being a board decision.

Griffin said it was his decision because it was a procedure to address the safety of students during day-to-day operations in the school system.

Griffin reiterated that the mask requirement would be lifted on Sept. 20 because all schools were below 10% exposure.

“I’m doing what I think is correct for our students,” Griffin said. “… I have the burden of 8,500 people in my schools, and so I could be right or wrong. I don’t know. I wish I knew there was a right or wrong answer.”

Griffin said he was open to suggestions on plans of a better way to proceed.