Utah’s statewide mask mandate is set to expire on Saturday, but the mandate requiring face coverings in schools is remaining the same.
Some parents believe that should change.
A group called "Utah Parents United" has started the "See My Smile" campaign. Through videos, billboards and social media posts, they are sharing a message urging the removal of mask requirements in schools.
“At what point are we allowed, as parents, to make our health decisions for our own children?” said Corrine Johnson, a member of Utah Parents United. “Yes, there are children who will still be at risk, but that risk is minimized by their choice to be able to wear a mask. We feel strongly that parents who want to mask their child for safety have every right to do so, so we ask that right be given to our children.”
The group is planning rallies outside every school district office this coming Saturday to encourage parents to make the choice for their own families on whether or not to send their children to school on Monday, April 12 with or without a mask.
However, when reached for comment, several school districts told FOX 13 they will continue to follow the state’s public health order.
The Davis School District said unless a student has an approved medical exemption, they will not be allowed to remain in the classroom without a mask.
The Utah Department of Health recently released a flier explaining the reasons why masks are still required in Kindergarten through grade 12 classrooms.
- Children under the age of 16 are not yet authorized to receive a vaccine
- Not every adult in a school setting has been vaccinated
- Children who contract COVID-19 can suffer long-term health issues
- Children can transmit the virus to unvaccinated family members
Teachers worry that a large number of students showing up to class without masks will cause a disruption in education and a health concern.
“We are so close to the end of the hardest year in teaching and the hardest year of being a student in anyone’s memories,” said Sarah Nichols, a special education teacher. “We are in the classroom, we are learning, interacting, connecting, laughing. A piece of cloth in front of someone’s face does not prevent that from happening.”
Nichols adds that teachers and students have managed to make this year work in spite of the numerous challenges. Since they have made it this far, she hopes parents and students can hang on a few more weeks until the end of the term.
But parents like Johnson worry if something isn’t done now, the mask mandates will return in the fall. They are keeping all of their options on the table if students who refuse to wear a mask are not allowed to stay in class on April 12 and beyond.
“Under the state Constitution, every child has the right to an education and an equal education under the law,” Johnson said. “We are exploring legal injunctions to support parents in this fight for their rights.”