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July 16, 2020

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An Icon opinion: It is not your right to insist on elevating everyone else’s risk level

Whether your child wears a mask outside of school is indeed your choice

This is written by Ada resdient Jenny Donley and that the Ada Icon agrees with and endorses these comments.

Those in Ada have likely seen signs around town from the “Ada School Unmasked” FB group, as well as ones for other schools in Hardin County. I’m going to strain relationships with this letter, but as with much of what’s going on in the world right now, speaking up for others is something we should all do regardless of the fall out.

These groups are circulating petitions for Hardin County schools that they say will be presented to our local health department, demanding “little or no guidelines” for controlling the spread of COVID-19 when our schools reopen. 

While they argue that masks would be a headache for teachers to enforce, their petition covers much more than the nuisance of mask enforcement and includes items on the list below, as well as other items:

• No masks for students OR teachers/staff
• No masks for bus drivers transporting children
• No social/physical distancing
• No partitions in classrooms

They use the hashtag “mykidsmychoiceAda” to indicate responsibility for the healthcare of their own children. Doing so ignores the evidence that mask wearing reduces the likelihood that someone with COVID-19 (who might not be showing symptoms yet) will spread the disease to others. 

It’s not just about the health of YOUR child; it’s about the health of all of the employees at the Ada Schools. In addition, it’s less likely that the disease will be brought home to grandparents (for many, the primary caregivers or babysitters) or immunocompromised family members, especially those going through cancer treatment.

Whether your child wears a mask outside of school is indeed your choice. It is not, however, your right to insist on elevating everyone else’s risk level. Which is more traumatic for a child: seeing an adult in a cloth mask or learning that a beloved family member or teacher has died of COVID-19?  

I am writing this letter as someone married to a lifelong Ada resident and 2nd grade teacher who supports mask wearing in classrooms and wears his mask to the store despite the eye rolls he receives. 

This issue matters to me not because I live in fear, or because I am high risk; it matters because I have loved ones whose livelihoods will be at risk because of shortsighted demands such as these. 

My mother-in-law is a custodian at Ada schools.

My husband's aunt is a bus driver for Ada schools.

I have loved ones with cancer whose children attend Ada schools.

My son will be a Kindergartner at Ada schools.

I grew up in a household with a high-risk parent, and my mom has been in and out of hospitals my entire life. When I was my son’s age, my Kindergarten class made get well cards for my mom during her time in the hospital that year. She is still here today in part because we took every precaution possible to not bring illness home to her.

I do not know how effective these petitions will be, but their mere existence troubles me. If precautions are not enforced at the administrative level, any child or teacher wearing a mask will be a social pariah. 

It is easier to control a group of students who are all required to wear masks than protect individual mask-wearing students from bullying and peer pressure. Also, if masks are the primary problem that these petitioners have, why are they arguing against social/physical distancing?

What will it take for our community to start following the recommendations of non-fringe doctors, scientists, and researchers? 

COVID-19 is far from over, even if we crave normalcy. If you propose that everyone “do their own research,” as many of you have, then from the bottom of my academic librarian heart please do so by using science-based scholarly resources. 

As a village, we should be reflexively pulling together to help and protect one another, as it takes a village to raise a child. 

Why are we not doing so in this instance by erring on the side of caution?