State officials announced Friday that California’s new school year will start with all students and teachers wearing masks. New CDC guidelines given on the same day recommended masks in schools only for those not vaccinated.
This decision by state health officials has sparked controversy and caused advocacy group, Let Them Breathe, who plan on suing the state, to push back.
Let Them Breathe, created in March, has over 10,000 members nationwide, most who are frustrated parents here in California.
Founder of Let Them Breathe and mother of four, Sharon Mckeeman, says this new mask mandate for kids returning to school this fall is personal.
“My fourth grader is medically exempt he's the only kid on his campus not wearing a mask, and that's been really difficult for him. I have another freshman who has coped with it, but I see the stress that it's had on him,” Mckeeman said. “I have another kid who is a junior, he really struggled during the closures over the masking issues. He has ADHD and it was really difficult for him to pay attention.”
Mckeeman says she and the quickly-growing organization don’t see this mandate as effective, but rather, detrimental.
The group is preparing to file a lawsuit against the state, and Mckeeman says “It could be filed as soon as next week.”
She hopes it can get taken care of before kids go back to school in August, or just as quickly as possible.
State health officials say their decision to mandate all children to wear masks in schools, despite new CDC guidelines saying vaccinated students can go maskless amid proper physical distancing, ensures everyone— regardless of vaccination status — is treated equally.
However, Mckeeman says this decision is just not possible.
“As we know, no elementary aged kids are eligible for the vaccine. There's some parents that are not planning to have their children vaccinated, there are some parents that vaccinated their children, just so they wouldn't have to wear a mask to school,” Mckeeman said.
“They've been told, get vaccinated because it works, well if it works, then why can't the kids take their masks off.”
State officials are urging more mask wearing because of the delta variant's rapid spread, but Mckeeman says that doesn’t justify these rules.
“There's nothing coming out saying that alarmingly children are at drastically more risk from the Delta variant or they're much more likely to transmit it.”
Ultimately, Mckeeman and the rest of the Let Them Breathe group are fighting for one thing, choice.
“We just want kids that are suffering, to have the choice to do what's best for themselves. A lot of parents or a lot of adults are getting back to life as normal, they're being able to rebound and heal. Our kids are in this limbo of feeling like they're in danger.”