Mask requirement in US schools: The fight for the mask

Status: 08/14/2021 12:42 p.m.

Should there be a mask requirement in schools after the holidays in the USA? Most Republicans are against, most Democrats are for it. And the health authority recommends masks as early as kindergarten.

By Franziska Hoppen, ARD-Studio Washington

“We know who you are,” yells a man without a mask at a father. “We will find you!” He is cheered on by dozens of mask opponents who have gathered in front of a building in tranquil Williamson County in the US state of Tennessee. They rush towards the people who are leaving the building, block their vehicles and tear up posters that say: Resistance is an obligation. This is how the television station CNN shows it.

More than just a piece of cloth

In the building, the school committee for Williamson County has just voted – for a mask requirement in elementary schools from the beginning of the new school year until probably September 21. The escalation after the vote shows: It’s no longer just about a piece of material.

A political controversy has broken out over the mask. And the debate over whether or not children should wear them at the start of the new school year is more heated than ever. Not just in Tennessee.

Florida prohibits the use of masks

In the state of Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is currently doing a showdown with schools. “We think that parents have to decide whether their children should wear masks or not,” says DeSantis. Individual freedom comes before state interference.

In fact, DeSantis interfered – and banned the mask requirement in schools. It is questionable how solid his arrangement is legally. But several school districts have already announced that they will oppose him and very well demand that students and teachers wear masks. DeSantis then threatened to cut funds and salaries for the schools.

72,000 infected children in one week

Fearing for the health of their children, parents have now taken the order to court. Judi Hayes too. “We’re frustrated, we’re scared, we’re angry,” Hayes told a local Florida broadcaster. “And we will not accept that. We will fight DeSantis – for as long as necessary.”

It’s hard words. But Florida also hit the Delta variant particularly hard: According to the Association of Pediatricians, 72,000 children and adolescents across the United States became infected with the corona virus within a week. Five times as many as last month. And nowhere else are there so many children being treated in the hospital as in Florida.

Biden criticizes the governors

Now the dispute over the mask requirement for school students – which the Republican governors in Texas, South Carolina and Iowa are also fighting – has spilled into the White House. US President Joe Biden intervened: “To the mayors, school principals, teachers and community leaders who oppose the governors who politicize mask protection for children: Thank you!” DeSantis countered: Biden had imported the virus into the country with the open borders.

The hiccup is like a power struggle. The governor is considered a candidate for the next presidential election among Republicans. His fan shop includes T-shirts with the inscription “How should I drink my beer with a mask” or, based on the immunologist Anthony Fauci: “Don’t Fauci my Florida”.

The political battle over the mask requirement in schools: dispute escalates

Franziska Hoppen, ARD Washington, August 14, 2021 11:45 a.m.

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