Of the nine people who spoke to the DeSoto County Board of Education at its Sept. 2 meeting, only three were in favor of requiring masks in schools.
The board’s most recent data shows 496 new COVID-19 cases and 1410 new quarantines in DeSoto County schools from Aug. 23 to Aug. 27.
“I think everybody agrees that the best thing for our kids is to be in class,” said Dr. Matthew Rees, a DeSoto County parent and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital pediatrician. “My concerns are that the current plan isn’t giving us our best chance to do that correctly.”
Two schools in the county, Lewisburg Middle School and Hernando High School, have both made changes to combat COVID-19 outbreaks in the classrooms. Lewisburg Middle School is doing virtual learning with 53 new confirmed cases and Hernando is doing hybrid learning with 22 new confirmed cases.
“Right now, 89 percent of school districts in Mississippi have a mask requirement in place,” Rees said. “We’re in the minority, even in Mississippi, and I think it’s time for DeSoto County to join that number.”
Also asking for the school board to require masks was DeSoto County parent Laura Scales. Scales is a mother to two young children, neither of which are able to receive a vaccine as they have not been federally approved for people younger than 12 years old. She emphasized that the school board should listen to advice given by people who are qualified to comment on the matter.
“I do not have a medical degree or experience as a medical professional or researcher,” Scales said. “That is why throughout this pandemic, me and my family have heavily relied on the guidance of those who have dedicated their lives to science, medicine, and medical research. These are professionals who spend their time trying to preserve our health.”
Other people who spoke to the board at Thursday’s meeting disagreed. DeSoto County parent John Williams argued that a mask mandate is a “gross violation of our civil liberties.”
Some of the parents who are opposed to requiring masks in schools asked that virtual learning be made more available to those who are “living in fear.”
In the group of people disagreeing with a possible mask mandate was former Mississippi governor candidate and DeSoto County parent Robert Foster.
Foster said at the meeting that there is an “almost zero chance” of children suffering any harm from COVID-19. Foster highlighted the point that several other of the parents made that they should be given the choice of wearing or not wearing a mask.
“If somebody wants to wear one, I will fight for their right to have a mask and to wear it,” Foster said. “All we ask is that we continue down the path of allowing parents to make the decision for their children that they see is fit and best.”
Foster also said that the board should take doctors’ advice with a grain of salt due to the liberal political agenda that they may have adopted during their time studying in colleges.
“Doctors are not immune from political ideology,” Foster said. “In fact, I would argue that over the last generation or so, almost every one of our public universities in the United State of America have been infiltrated and taken over by the radical left and the professors … Doctors are not immune to that either. They’re in school longer than a lot of people.”
DeSoto County Schools do not currently require masks.