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ENCINITAS, Calif. – Some North County parents gathered Tuesday night outside of the Encinitas Union School District offices to call for mask choice inside classrooms.

The rally, part of the Let Them Breathe effort, comes in the wake of a strongly worded letter to school leaders from the California Department of Public Health reminding them to enforce mask mandates. In part, the letter says that failure to enforce the mask requirement “breaches not only a legal duty, but also the first and foremost duty of every school leader—to protect students.”

Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe, called the letter “threatening” and argued it’s not the job of state public health officials to enforce mask requirements in that fashion.

“They’re supposed to be putting out health guidance, not threatening school districts or telling them school districts that they need to get specific legal counsel,” McKeeman said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, parents on both sides of the mask choice argument addressed board members, though the majority in attendance were calling for some form of choice on facial coverings.

In California, everyone is required to wear masks in select settings, including on public transit, in health care environments and inside K-12 schools, childcare and other settings involving youth. They also are required in the state for unvaccinated people and recommended for all in indoor public places such as retail, restaurants and government offices.

Tuesday night’s rally was organized by Encinitas parent Michelle Nelson.

“I just feel like the parents’ choice is being taken away from us,” Nelson said, “and all that we want is what best for our kids and that should be a parent’s decision.”

One parent, who believes in upholding the mask mandate, told FOX 5, “Whether they like it or not, their kids are gonna have to wear masks in the classroom.”