St. Tammany Parish School Board, parents ask BESE to make masks optional in schools

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ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. (WGNO) — Hundreds of people gathered at Mandeville Lakefront Park Saturday, rallying to make covid vaccines and masks a choice, not a mandate.

Dozens of concerned parents were in attendance, many saying their children should not be forced to wear a mask in school.

“So if your kids are being masked, I know my son is five-years-old, and I will not send him to school wearing a mask,” said Joseph Untz, a speaker at the rally.

The rally came on the heels of the St. Tammany Parish School Board’s letter to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

In the letter, the school board asks to make masks optional for both students and faculty.

“I think a school district that did not proceed with their students and teachers masked would have massive, massive outbreaks and have to have big disruptions in their education,” Dr. Jospeph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health.

Monday, Dr. Kanter reiterated the severity of the states current covid crisis and its impact on children.

According to the latest data from the LDH. nearly 7,500 kids across the state are battling the virus.

Still, many parents on the North Shore say it should be their choice whether or not their child wears a mask.

We reached out to St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper about Saturday’s rally, he provided us with this statement that reads in part:

“We respect the intentions of some citizens to exercise their American rights to protest, however, the images I saw from Saturday evening were extremely disturbing and disappointing. We are, undoubtedly, in the worst stage of covid-19. Our medical advisors have repeatedly said that masks and the vaccine work. We need to take this seriously for the sake of our parish,” said Cooper.

No comment this evening from BESE, but the board will take up the mask issue at its next meeting on Wednesday in Baton Rouge. Many parents from St. Tammany Parish are expected to be there. Meanwhile, Governor John Bel Edwards released a letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics that strongly endorses wearing masks in schools.

St. Tammany Parish School Board President Brandon Harrell says the school board will follow guidance from BESE, regardless of the decision that’s made on Wednesday.

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