Several hundred people rallied for medical freedom in Boston on Wednesday as the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) authorized a mask mandate in public schools through October 1.
Protesters demonstrated near the Park Street subway station, and then marched to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health while shouting slogans like “my child, my choice” and “we will not comply.” They said it should be parents but not the government to decide whether their children need to wear masks.
“We have a lot of families that want masks, and a lot of families that don’t. And the most equitable thing would be to just let parents choose for themselves and their own families, and what’s best for their children,” the event organizer Samantha Muise said.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education board voted 9–1 Tuesday to give Commissioner Jeffrey Riley the power to issue a mask mandate for schools. Paymon Rouhanifard, the only board member who voted no, said it was a “bad public policy.”
Muise said that, as masks could do damage to children long term, a good solution is to give parents the choice and have them sign liability forms for consequences of either wearing or not wearing masks.
“I have a 4-year-old son. How do you teach him his ABCs if he can’t see your face?” Rayla Campbell, a speaker at the rally said.
Another protester Cynthia Maloney was concerned about masks’ mental effects on children. “They are being told that they are carrying diseases, and they are going to be killing people. What kind of psychological damage is [that] doing to our children … I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I have to watch my grandchildren go through this. This is not OK,” she said.
She said that mask mandates for children are more ideological than scientific. “Nobody is looking at the actual science. They are believing the scientists are like their God. … It’s a new religion,” Maloney said.
According to DESE’s announcement, it was effective immediately that public school students (age 5 and above) and staff are required to wear masks indoors in schools. The requirement will be in place until at least October 1, 2021.
Students and staff who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, and students who cannot wear a mask for behavioral reasons, are exempted from the requirement.
After October 1, 2021, if a school demonstrates a vaccination rate of 80 percent or more of students and staff in the school, then vaccinated individuals in that school would no longer be subject to the DESE mask requirement.
The announcement said whether and when a student should be disciplined for failure to wear a mask is a local decision. Districts should provide written notice to students and families about expectations and potential consequences, and are encouraged to use a progressive discipline approach.
Prior to the vote on Tuesday, some protesters gathered outside the DESE building in Malden to oppose the proposal and call for parent choice.