Students, parents protest mandatory masking

Students, parents protest mandatory maskingBy LAURA Austin

News Review Staff Writer

Hundreds of unmasked students of the Sierra Sands Unified School District (SSUSD) began a peaceful protest on Tuesday, February 15 by declining to wear masks. They were removed from their classrooms and relocated to either the library, the cafeteria or the gym. February 15th was the same day the state announced it would not extend its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated residents after it expired on Feb. 15.

On Tuesday, February 22, many parents and students from several district schools including Burroughs High School, Murray and Monroe Middle Schools, Gateway, Las Flores, and Faller Elementary Schools participated in the protest.

Some opinions expressed by parents were:

“We’ve just had enough,” said parent, Gina Spurbeck. “If you want to wear a mask, cool. We’re out here expressing our right to choose either way. Schools just need to get back to educating the basics and let us parents handle the rest.”

“There are a multitude of reasons why our children should be mask free,” said parent, Christina Evans. “Just to name a few, it has been proven that they are insufficient to contain the spread of COVID. If a child was to contact the virus, serious illness or death is significantly low in children. It is less of a threat to children than accidents or the common flu.

Long-term harm to kids from masking is enormous due to lower oxygen intake, increase in other infections, etc. Not to mention, these poor kids are losing out on one-on-one interaction with their peers and teachers. Facial expressions are covered and words are mumbled under a mask; therefore, the communication is either lost or misinterpreted. Also, there has been a massive spike in children experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicide due to all the mandates in general.

Why are other schools across California dropping the mandates, yet Ridgecrest Sierra Sands School District can’t/won’t grow a backbone and stand up for these poor kids?” Evans asked.

She continued, “I am beyond proud of the kids that have a voice and are standing up for themselves and respectfully refusing to wear a mask that does absolutely no good for them. If it is okay for the Governor to attend the Super Bowl unmasked, with thousands of other people unmasked, then my child will absolutely not be wearing a mask to school ever again.”

“Our children are suffering in many different ways due to forced mask wearing and empty threats from their teachers and staff!” said Kim Barraza. “This is not in any way freedom! Since when did the schools ever have control over our children’s health and rights? Never. We will not stop protecting our children,” Barraza concluded.

On February 23, SSUSD Superintendent Dr. Dave Ostash sent the following statement to the community.

“Many of you know that our schools are struggling with increasing numbers of students who refuse to wear a mask, or have been instructed by their parents to refuse to wear a mask.

Our staff is overwhelmed. The pressure is damaging.

A few of our state’s 1,000 school districts have made decisions that, now, question the credibility of all the other school districts by a growing number of angry parents and staff.

The issue seems so simple to many of us; yet the issue is actually complex and interwoven with rule of law, and financial/liability protection for our school district.

I am genuinely respectful of the positions expressed on both sides of the mask issue.

Some folks implore me to exercise ‘good leadership’ by doing what they want me to do. Trust me when I say I am investing all of my intellectual and emotional energy into serving all of Sierra Sands as a good leader. I always have our current and future capacity and programs in mind,” he said.

Ostash referenced an attached PDF copy of a letter he sent to Gov. Newsom and our locally elected leaders in which he expressed that he believes it is time to move from mandated to voluntary masking. He concluded by saying, “In the meantime, we will do our best to maintain the integrity of our schools in a very divisive and challenging time.”

Laura Austin Photo: Parents and students protest against the District’s mask mandate.

Story First Published: 2022-02-25