Some GCPS Parents Fight Against Mask Mandate

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Parents protest the requirement of masks in Gwinnett County Public Schools

A group of parents in Gwinnett County sued the school district on August 31, 2021, with the intent to end the mask mandate. 

Gwinnett County Public Schools was initially going mask-optional, however, GCPS board members decided to enact a mask mandate the August before the 2021-22 school year.

After the decision on a mask-mandate, Governor Kemp of Georgia recently filed an executive order which took the power to make decisions regarding individualized mask mandates away from districts.

Following this, four parents who felt that their children were negatively affected by the mask mandate have filed a lawsuit against the school district.

They explained that the requirement to wear masks 8 hours a day is causing their children to suffer physically and mentally while affecting their ability to learn.

Michael Dawson, an Economics teacher at Parkview High School argues, “The parents of these students are acting on behalf of themselves and their own political interests as opposed to the best interest of their children and the general public… them denying this is disingenuous and untrue.”

This argument made by Dawson, along with many others, that the parents are covering their true intention of pushing their political agenda with the concern of their children stems from the fact that the attorney involved in the lawsuit on behalf of the parents, Mitch Skandalakis, was a formerly known Republican Party politician in the 1990s.

The parents have explained that the requirement of masks seems useless as students have the ability to get vaccinated and stay protected on their own. 

Tehut Andarachew, a senior at Parkview High School, argues, “I’m not going to lie and say that I enjoy wearing a mask but it’s necessary… it’s not fun but it’s easy.”

For this mask mandate, however, the district changed its mandate after the CDC changed its guidelines on masks, stating that individuals who are vaccinated can still spread the virus.

The argument on whether masks should be required has been an ongoing debate since the beginning of the pandemic but has become a bigger issue since schools started to open in-person.

“COVID-19 is still a thing and cases are increasing even with the mask mandates in school,” Andargachew explains, “I feel unsafe in the school even when I and everyone around me is wearing a mask… the idea that it may not be required is terrifying.”

COVID cases have only increased in GCPS since the school year began and fear of the virus has risen along with the amount of people in the school.

Andargachew states, “It’s hard not to pay attention to the rise in cases in our district ’cause you hear about it everywhere… I think that we should take all measures possible to ensure the safety of all students and staff.”

The district defended their decision regarding the mask mandate by releasing a statement saying, “The school district will defend its authority and obligation to follow public health guidance to protect our students and staff.”