Op-Ed: When it comes to masks in schools, let the parents decide

HARRISBURG –  Parents gather information and do their utmost to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of their children. They know their children’s strengths and weaknesses best and love their kids more than any bureaucrat.

Eighteen months ago, parents came to grips with the onset of COVID-19. They saw schools close only to reopen with strict masking requirements. They experienced first-hand the frustrations of trying to help their children function in this new world.

Despite requests, the Department of Health (DOH) has yet to provide additional information on the 14 Pennsylvania children between the ages of 15 to 19 who tragically died due to COVID-19.

Additional detailed information about positive COVID-19 cases in school-age children such as the severity of their symptoms and any required medical attention or hospitalization has also yet to be made available.

The Wolf Administration continues to withhold accurate, useful information that is needed for parents to make educated decisions. The administration is providing only the information that fits their narrative; sending local officials into a panic as they make decisions for the upcoming school year.

Both DOH and PA Department of Education (PDE) have done a great disservice to parents in the information that they collect and provide, which then leads parents to seek out other sources for information – sources that the mainstream media and “blue check marks” on Twitter are quick to condemn.

Perhaps the most important question: is there more harm than good by masking our children for the majority of a seven-hour school day? The enduring impacts of long-term masking is not widely known or even researched at this point.

One study earlier this year by Germany’s University of Witten/Herdecke reviewed 25,000 school-aged children and concluded that masks are harming school children physically, psychologically, and behaviorally. The study revealed 24 distinct health issues associated with wearing masks.

The health issues and impairments observed in this study were found to affect 68% of masked children who were forced to wear a face covering for an average of 4.5 hours per day. The health issues observed in the study include increased headaches (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), drowsiness or fatigue (37%) and malaise (42%). Nearly a third of the children experienced increased sleeping issues.

The study also found that 30% of the children experienced shortness of breath, 26% experienced dizziness, and hundreds of the participants experienced accelerated respiration, tightness in chest, weakness, and short-term impairment of consciousness.

When specifically asked about how PDE is addressing concerns about the impact of mask-wearing on children (especially for those with special needs), the department did not address the question. I would surmise it’s because they don’t know.

The culture of fear is being used to divide instead of allowing facts and science to be a guide for parents and families to make decisions in the best interest of their children.

Along with Senator Judy Ward (R-Blair), I am sponsoring a plan to allow parents and legal guardians to “opt out” their children from having to comply with a school’s mask mandate. The bill would require all school districts to develop and abide by a form that will allow parents or legal guardians to sign off on “opting out” their child from a mask mandate.

The right to make health and educational decisions that is suited for your child should be with the parents and legal guardians. Parents and guardians need to be able to make the choice as they know better than bureaucrats or anyone else what is best for individual needs of their child. I want to leave it in the hands of the parents. This bill will empower them to do that.

It’s the right of parents and legal guardians to gather the facts and decide that they view is in the best interest of their child.

Senator Doug Mastriano represents Pennsylvania’s 33rd Senate District that includes all of Adams County as well as parts of Cumberland, Franklin and York counties.

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