Education

New teachers group starts petition to pressure Wake schools to drop masks

Posted July 31, 2021 3:39 p.m. EDT
Updated August 2, 2021 9:03 a.m. EDT

— A new teachers group has started a petition that opposes the state's decision to recommend students wear masks in the classroom, and the Wake County Republican party pushed out their link in an email sent on Saturday.

The email says that the Republican party on Tuesday will present the petition from the Carolina Teachers Alliance at the Wake County Board of Education meeting.

"Parents who wish to send their children to school unmasked should do so if they choose, without discrimination or penalty to the child by Wake County Public School System," the letter to the school board says.

Republican officials also said that masks "deny students educational rights."

Nineteen school districts have decided to make mask wearing optional for K-12 students, according to an Education NC analysis. In an emergency meeting held on Thursday, the Johnston County Board of Education voted 4-3 to make masks optional for kindergarten through 12th grade students, despite recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommends mask wearing indoors at school.

When the decision came down, a majority of people inside the meeting were cheering that their children did not have to wear masks.

Holly Springs parent Karissa Trussell said she believes the distraction of masking up in class outweighs the threat of COVID-19 to kids.

"They are not learning," she said. "They are not connecting, and I see my kids struggling and they hate it."

This month, Keith Sutton, chairman of the Wake County school board, said he would follow the state's guidance on COVID-19 protocols. While the board has not announced if they would be requiring masks in the fall, the state recommends that all students, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask.

“Our trends have turned sharply in the wrong direction," Gov. Roy Cooper said last week. "Unvaccinated people are driving this resurgence and getting themselves and other people sick."

Dr. Robin Peace, with UNC Southeastern, said she worries about kids passing the virus to unvaccinated family members.

"You want to protect your kids. You don't want to be regretful because your child contracted COVID [and] got seriously ill, and you could have potentially kept that from happening," said Peace.

Sutton said that he supports students wearing masks, especially for children under 12 that aren't eligible for a vaccine yet.

The petition notes that the COVID-19 vaccines are not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration – they have approval for use under an emergency authorization – and that they aren't "considered vaccines by legal definition." The petition said that WCPSS should not promote children to get vaccinated, and says there should not be vaccinations on school property.

Supporters who do not live in Wake County can still sign the petition, Republican party officials said. Already, more than 2,000 people have signed it.

"It kind of helps to inform my decision making," said Sutton.

"I think to decide that no one would wear mask, at this point, would be highly irresponsible," he added.

Republican officials said that parents who "do not wish to send their children to school unless children are forced to wear masks" have the option of enrolling their child in WCPSS's virtual academy or homeschool them.

The Free the Smiles protesters were at the last board meeting- and plan to be back Tuesday. The Wake GOP is backing the group’s effort to pressure the school board to make masks optional.

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