Protestors gather outside of Lakota headquarters to oppose mandatory student masks

Credit: Journal News

Caption
Group gathers in opposition to Lakota mask mandate

Credit: Journal News

Less than 24 hours after southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school system ordered mandatory protective masks for all students, dozens of Lakota school parents protested this morning outside the district’s headquarters.

Lakota’s reversal Monday afternoon of its previous optional mask policy for students and teachers was soon followed by Mason and Middletown school officials making similar announcements for their district and impacting more than 33,000 area students just starting the new school year.

ExploreLakota rules masks are mandatory for students, teachers when school begins this week

The school district mask edicts come in the wake of a spike in the number of positive cases being detected locally – and nationally - of the coronavirus variant.

And the orders also follow the public urgings of city, county and state health officials calling for mandatory masks in all schools to curtail the recent rising spread of the variant strain, which many doctors have declared is more contagious than the original coronavirus.

“Stand up for your rights and breathe,” shouted Lakota school parent Sarah Webster as about 50 fellow anti-mask protestors applauded in front of the Lakota Board of Education office in Butler County’s Liberty Twp.

Protestors also cited a growing online petition against the mask, which this morning had more than 500 signatures, as evidence of the unpopularity of Lakota’s decision.

The 16,800 students of Lakota Schools are scheduled to begin classes – via a staggered start of the new school year – on Wednesday.

Lakota Spokeswoman Betsy Fuller told the Journal-News: “There are certainly very strong feelings on both sides about requiring masks in our schools.”

“This was not an easy decision to make by any means. The bottom line is, we want our students to stay healthy and be able to learn in school. In order to do that, we have to follow the quarantine protocols from the Butler County General Health District. This includes requiring both the COVID-positive student and the close contact to be wearing masks,” said Fuller.

The Journal-News reported Monday Lakota Schools Superintendent said the district’s decision was “based on the advice of medical experts, the increasing numbers of positive COVID cases among children in our county and stringent in-school quarantine protocols.”

Ohio Representative Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester Twp.) also spoke at the protest and said she backed the parents’ anti-mask stance.

“We believe in local control in Ohio. The school board and the superintendent is who you need to be talking to, so this (demonstration) is the right answer,” Gross said.

She warned the ordering of masking of school children may lead to other government infringements on the rights of parents and others.

“Letting your voice be known to the school board and the superintendent … is the right thing to do,” said Gross.

Stay with the Journal-News for more coverage of this issue.

Photographer Nick Graham contributed to this story