Group decries masks in classrooms during Carlsbad rally


CARLSBAD, Calif. — Parents with the advocacy groups Let Them Breathe and ReOpen San Diego held an event called “Smilefest” in Carlsbad on Saturday, protesting the state’s decision to continue requiring masks in schools despite CDC guidelines saying fully vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear the face-coverings on campus.

“At this point it’s pretty clear they’re not going to do what’s right for our kids unless a judge makes them,” said Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe. “The biggest thing is just the mental health impacts on our kids. Many, many doctors are saying our kids need to get back to normal. Their mental health is in crisis, they need to be able to smile again.”

She said the group is working to file a lawsuit against the state, demanding students and teachers should have the choice to mask up in the classroom.

State health officials said they made the decision based on concerns that many California schools would not be able to implement physical distancing requirements inside classrooms. The CDC has said vaccinated students can safely go maskless even in settings where that distancing is not possible.

But state leaders argued this week that masking remains a reasonable and effective strategy to keep kids healthy and that requiring face coverings for all students will ensure everyone — regardless of vaccination status — is treated equally.

“Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement.

“At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated – treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”

With the state’s decision appearing to be set, tough decisions lie ahead for parent Marin Pierce, as the beginning of the school year gets closer. She said all day masking can cause headaches and dizziness for her 9-year-old when temperatures warm up.

“And now I have a week and a half to figure out if I want to pull my kids out of school, quit my job and I’m a nurse I’ve served this community for over 17 years and I’ve dealt with COVID patients, you know, and we’re out of the thick of it,” said Marin Pierce. “Leave our kids alone, why are they wearing masks?”

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