As of March 1, the District of Columbia no longer requires masks in many indoor public spaces. But masks must be worn in private businesses that require them, on public transit, and…in schools.
Why, Republican lawmakers have asked, is the mask mandate still required for children in schools while adults don’t have to wear them indoors?
Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina leads a group of 11 lawmakers who sent a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser asking her this question.
“The decision to mandate masks in our children’s schools is not one that should be made lightly,” the letter (PDF) reads. “The effects these masks place on children expands beyond the realm of a public health measure.”
One of the reported problems with children wearing masks all day are developmental issues. Children learning anything, from how to pronounce words to spelling words to hearing well enough to understand words and concepts, are hindered by speaking through masks and hearing others speak through masks. Facial cues are important.
“Several prominent researchers have speculated that language development among children could be hindered with the loss of facial cues. Additionally, many psychiatrists are worried about the possibility of emotional effects. The lack of emotional expression could significantly disrupt the implicit feedback that is exchanged between a teacher and student.”
The lawmakers asked the mayor to explain why she lifted the mask mandate for adults but not for children sitting inside several hours a day. Will the mayor respond? She has another group to answer to: parents of children in private schools.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent a letter (PDF) to D.C.’s health department, asking the government to answer the same questions lawmakers asked. Representing a group of parents with children in Roman Catholic schools, ADF says the mask lift order “conspicuously—and quite unjustly—leaves children in private schools masked, with no end in sight. This makes no sense, especially in light of the fact that nearby jurisdictions in Virginia and Maryland do not impose mask mandates on private school children. And just last night, Congress—located at the heart of the District—lifted its own mask mandate for its Members and Staff.” (emphasis added)
Why are governments leaving mandates in place for children?
“Wearing masks during school substantially burdens the exercise of religious education, and there is no justifiable reason for Mayor Bowser to continue mandating masks for religious schools, especially when she recently lifted mask mandates across most other venues throughout the district,” ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman said. “Religious freedom laws require the District to lift this mandate on the children, teachers, and staff at religious schools, and we request a swift resolution in this matter to avoid possible legal action.”