There have no doubt been a lot of things said about mask wearing and schools during this pandemic.
But what often seems missing in this discussion over the past year about what's appropriate is how much the kids have been hurt by all this, with the denial of in-person education and the psychological and physical harm that they may have had from wearing masks while their risk of transmission of the virus is so low.
We've heard from politicians like Joe Biden and even from the AFT head Randi Weingarten about “safety” about the things that need to be considered in regard to schools.
But who we don't hear from at all is the kids andrand how this all has affected them. The media hasn't seemed to care enough to share those tales.
So we present to you this amazing video of John, who is a fourth-grader at Felix A. Williams Elementary School in the Martin County School District in Stuart, Florida. While Gov. Ron DeSantis eliminated the mask mandates for the rest of the state, schools still have mask orders in place. School districts are considering making them voluntary for next year.
Listen as John addresses the board asking for masks to be made voluntary while calling out the hypocrisy of his teachers and explaining how this has adversely affected him and his friends. He says he didn't think it would stay this way all year long. “Two weeks to slow the spread,” remember?
“A lot of things didn't make sense to me like we were not allowed to play on the playground or have student council or turn to face each other at lunch and we also have to wear masks outside at PE and on track,” John said. Then he described how stressed the teachers were, including one who walked around with a clipboard writing down every student whose mask wasn't on properly. “It makes me feel scared,” he declared.
He said that the same teacher yelled at them if they drank a glass of water outside while they waited to be picked up by their parents, that they had to wait until they got into their parent's cars. “She had her mask down the entire time she was yelling at us,” John observed wryly, “which makes me and all my friends very mad.” He said this happens a lot that teachers yelled at them with their masks down. He asked his mother if there was a word for this and she said there was. “Hypocrisy,” he proclaimed.
“Wearing the mask all day makes me really tired,” John explained. “And gives me really bad headaches.” He continued, noting the mask stuck to his face and made it hard to breathe. He described how he ran into his teacher outside of school and she didn't even recognize him because she's never really seen his face before. But he knew it was her, “because she sits at her desk a lot without a mask on.” He recognized that she had asthma but stated he had allergies so why wasn't he allowed the same choice?
“All this seems unfair and it doesn't make sense. I miss seeing people's faces. I miss the way things used to be. I'm scared they'll never go back to normal. Breathing doesn't seem like something we should have to ask any other people for permission for,” John said, giving perhaps the single greatest statement I've heard all year about this, with a wisdom that I wish more people had.
This kid is my new hero and I predict great things for him. Would that more people had his simple clarity.