San Diego school chief stokes outrage for saying kids who won’t wear masks can stay home: ‘Really disturbing’

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The San Diego Unified School District Board president is under fire for instructing students who won’t wear masks to stay home from regular school and opt for Zoom classes instead.  

Indoor masking is now required for San Diego Unified School District schools and offices until the end of summer school amid a recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, according to reports. 

“Parents and students who don’t want to wear a mask indoors in school, are there any other options for them?” “Good Evening San Diego” asked San Diego Unified Board President Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne Monday.

“They can go to our school that’s online,” she said. “They can opt not to return to the regular school, but to go to the school where they don’t have to go to school at all other than via Zoom.” 

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Whitehurst-Payne previously touted the effectiveness of N-95 masks for students.

“They feel better than the others, you can talk and breathe in them,” she said in January when asked about the mask mandate.  

Parents and activists were not impressed by the president’s guidance, blasting her for what they saw as more obstacles to children’s long-awaited return to the classroom. 

“Vaccines have been available for over 1.5 years and the vast majority of children, parents, and school staff have already met the virus, but the @sdschools board president is telling children if they don’t want to mask they have to Zoom,” writer Anthony LaMesa said.  

“This is really disturbing,” commentator Alicia Smith agreed. “After all the evidence we’ve seen about how much learning loss occurs during zoom ‘school,’ some officials insist on continuing it so they can continue a virtue signaling exercise.” 

“The two years of COVID schooling taught teacher’s unions that they hold a really powerful card: in-person schooling,” Bethany Mandel, a mother of five, told Fox News Digital. “They can withhold it at will. That’s exactly what’s happening here; they’re telling parents and children ‘it’s my way or the highway’ on masks, but it won’t end there. Unions have decided that in-person public schooling (we have seen ample evidence the online alternative is wholly inadequate) is a bargaining chip, and a luxury, not an essential right guaranteed to all children. It’s why public school systems across the country are facing an exodus; and why every American kid deserves the right to school choice.”   

Joseph G. Allen feels masks work, but aren’t necessary for kids. 

Joseph G. Allen feels masks work, but aren’t necessary for kids.  ( Allison Dinner/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Some health experts, meanwhile, questioned the science of the return of the mask mandate to San Diego.

“San Diego is forcing public school kids to pick between masking or [Z]oom school,” Professor Stanford School of Medicine Jay Bhattacharya tweeted. “Public health in California resolutely ignores the lack of randomized evidence showing any efficacy from child masking & the harms of denying kids in-person schooling. Enough. Leave them kids alone.” 

Pediatrician Michael Absoud simply wrote, “Heartbreaking.”

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Masks have become unpopular to the point that liberal media outlets have begun to give a platform to parents who have spoken out on the mandates.

NPR, for instance, highlighted Kerry Dingle, a mother of two young children in Silver Spring, Md., who said her belief in making masks optional left her isolated. 

“As soon as you question, ‘Is it a good idea to put a 2-year-old in a mask all day?’ you’re suddenly a psychotic, anti-vax right-winger,” Dingle told the outlet. “Which really couldn’t be further from the truth.” 

A piece from three physicians in the Washington Post in January advocated for making masks optional in schools, saying it was time to give children “their childhood back.” 

“We urge public health and school officials to educate communities on one-way masking, emphasizing personal choice regarding self-protection and supporting those who choose to remain masked,” they wrote. “It’s time we stopped worrying about what others are doing and started focusing on protecting ourselves.”

Many parents of all political stripes have worried about the effects strict COVID-19 mandates have had not just on their kids’ education, but on their physical and mental well-being.  

Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report.