Masks are Tools for Discrimination
Our schools are failing our children. It is no secret our kids are suffering more under covid policy than they do from the virus. School boards are sitting on their hands, giving away their power to protect our children from the physical and psychological harms they’re enduring from damaging policies and mandates.
If there is any symbol for disastrous covid policy, it is the mask. It stifles communication. It separates our smiling faces more than a six-foot imaginary distance ever could. It divides Americans by being a visible mark of compliance, and therefore a tool for manufactured discrimination based on vaccine status, religion, cultural norms and political speech.
Shifting public health guidance, and mandates that defy common sense have kept Americans in a state of uncertainty.
As Mr. Butts of Indiana so clearly stated, parents and kids now have to check mask requirements along with the weather report. But constantly changing rules from officials laying claim to the health of our children from outside our communities shockingly hasn’t been a red flag to our school boards. Board members continue to think they have to bow to rules from the federal government (or hide behind them in fear).
When we are uncertain, when we are scared, or angry, or when we are concerned for ourselves and others, we are at our most vulnerable. But we are also at our most powerful to make meaningful change.
There is no authority for a federal mask mandate.
Why is it so hard to see which way the wind is blowing on mask recommendations? Because the first guidance we got from “America’s Doctor” himself was right on the money:
“Wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And often, there are unintended consequences.”[ii]
The science on mask use was clear. Dr. Fauci summarized it on March 8, 2020, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.”
In the beginning of lockdown times, we were told masks weren’t effective for public use and to save them for health workers. But then in April 2020 the White House did an about face and we were told to mask up to prevent something called asymptomatic spread. Fall ushered in CDC guidance for schools, which included masks and other isolation methods. A year post-emergency declaration, in January 2021, President Biden took office and quickly issued executive orders requiring masks on all federal grounds and directing agencies to “require masks to be worn in compliance with CDC guidelines” on planes, trains, boats, busses and other ways we get around.[iii] After the EUA vaccine roll-outs in early 2021, CDC declared in May 2021 masks were not necessary in indoor settings for the vaccinated. However, in Summer 2021 CDC recommended masks for all K-12 students and school staff regardless of vaccination status. Next, the claimed Omicron surge sent a wave of mask mandates through our communities and schools once again regardless of vaccination status.
In reality, covid rules (including masks) come down to what the White House “thought people would be able to tolerate,” as was directly admitted by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky when questioned on changing isolation guidance.[iv]
I say to-mask-oh, you say to-not-oh. (Let’s call the whole thing off.)
Most states eliminated mask orders after the CDC’s declaration in May 2021 that vaccinated people no longer needed to mask. However, once the narrative shifted to Omicron, nine states renewed their mask orders for all people in indoor places: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Washington.[v] Washington also required masks outdoors for crowded events. Localities across the country have chosen to impose their own mandates in states where the governor has not acted.
This leaves a patchwork of mask requirements that could truly have one putting on a mask in one store, driving down the road to a restaurant with no requirement, and going further down the line only to face a mandate again.
There is a landslide of lawsuits happening around the country, in state and federal courts, over masks. There are too many to list here, and most are not final as they are making their way through the legal process, so here is a selection.
- In March 2021, Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the statewide mask mandate.[vi]
- In April 2021, Kansas’ legislature revoked a statewide mask order made by the Governor.
- In May 2021, South Carolina Governor McMaster issued an executive order that included banning mask mandates.
- December 2021, Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the school mask mandate.[vii]
- Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sued 45 school districts with mask mandates, seeking to halt them.[viii]
- New Yorkers are dealing with on-again-off-again mask litigation. At the end of January a judge struck down the mandate, only to see it re-instated by an appeals court.[ix]
What about the busses?
Transportation, including school busses and air travel, are being put through the legal wringer as well. Unlike the general “guidance” given by the CDC, the transportation mandates are relying upon the president’s executive orders from January 2021, and an “Order” subsequently published in the Federal Register. It would be this publication that makes people (especially school boards) think they have no choice when it comes to masks on school busses.
You don’t even have to read fine print to determine there is no authority in the CDC to mandate masks on transportation across the country. CDC admits it in plain terms. In February 2021, “Requirement for Persons to Wear Masks While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs” was published in the Federal Register. The CDC claimed it was not a Rule and thus did not need the Notice and Comment procedure that allows Americans to hold the agency accountable and take part in decision making. The CDC cited one statute and three regulations as authority. Two regulations are irrelevant instructions for quarantine at ports. The other two relied upon, also in the context of quarantine, were recently addressed by the Supreme Court of the United States as unsupportive.[x] In a ruling striking down CDC’s assertion of power over nationwide eviction bans, it was noted as “telling” that these laws and regulations have never been used in the manner the CDC was currently attempting. Further, any potential authority granted the CDC would not be as broad as was being asserted. The CDC was overstepping its bounds into the “police power” of the states.
Biden’s transportation mask order did not give authority, cite authority, nor expressly state there is an emergency. Attorney George Wentz explained this well in the context of air travel mask mandate litigation in his interview with SHF Executive Director Leah Wilson. There was no determination made that states have insufficiently addressed communicable diseases. The Order as published in the Federal Register says that failure to wear the mask on transportation is a “violation of federal law” but no law exists. The executive order came a full year after the WHO declaration of a public health emergency. Prior to that there was no federal action concerning masks. On the CDC website it’s stated that masks “must” be worn on school busses, subject to the order.[xi] In the handbook for schools, language is softer. Schools “should consider the following steps,” and the CDC wants to “emphasize the importance” of masking in general. And most directly on point, it’s written that “maintaining mandatory consistent, correct use of masks” is listed as “one of several options to consider to promote safety.”[xii]
Attorney Wentz’s lawsuit challenging the mask mandates for travel is slowly working its way through the courts. His is not the only challenge however, a Florida family with a child who regularly uses air travel for his medical treatments have also challenged the Order, among many many others.
“Lawyering up” can be effective. It is an important tool because it can prevent future harms by putting precedent on the books, clearly letting schools know what they cannot do. A favorable ruling could prevent a mask mandate from happening again. However, courts are the last step in lawmaking–the judgment of whether that law is right. It is generally a slow and expensive process, and people are already hurt because the rule is in effect. The fastest way to help our children get out from under the tyranny in their faces is to address it at the source—get active with your school boards. Make it clear that all health decisions for a child are made by the family, not the educational institution. Remind the schools that sometimes government gets it wrong, and we must say no to laws or “guidance” that hurt our children. We can stop the mandates before they have to get to a courtroom by getting active locally and not complying with mask mandates.
Mandates are only as strong as our fear of noncompliance.
Parents, not schools, are the health authority for children. Although our federal government treated parents as “domestic terrorists,” for speaking out in their communities, the White House had to backpedal and apologize when the mama and papa bears roared back.[xiii] We need to keep making noise. Schools and scientists across the globe are starting to wake up to the fact that the benefits of masks were oversold and the risks too high.
One of the biggest hurdles our parent advocates are facing is the response from the school boards that they cannot do anything about mask requirements. Give your school board permission to put the kids first and to break the fear of non-compliance of guidance dressed up as a law. There are too many physical and psychological harms associated with prolonged mask use. Stand for Health Freedom’s Kid’s First resources give a very thorough overview, and tools you can use to create change in your schools.
Power to make decisions for health care is rooted in the individual and family unit. Health starts at home. This is where we must come home to roost.
References & Sources
[iii] “Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel.” 2021. Federal Register. January 26, 2021. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/01/26/2021-01859/promoting-covid-19-safety-in-domestic-and-international-travel.
[x] Alabama Association of Realtors v. US DHHS, No. 20-cv-3377 (DLF), 2021.
[xi] CDC. 2020. “COVID-19 and Your Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 11, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/face-masks-public-transportation.html.
[xii] “COVID-19 HANDBOOK Strategies for Safely Reopening Elementary and Secondary Schools.” 2020. (page 15). https://www2.ed.gov/documents/coronavirus/reopening.pdf.