FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – About 30 Northwest Allen County School (NACS) parents protested their kids having to wear masks while in class before the school board meeting at Perry Hill Elementary School Monday night.
“We have a group of very concerned parents that believe that the mask mandates have continued on for way too long,” said Travis Striggle, a parent of two Oak Hill Elementary School students. “We don’t even know the long and short term health ramifications of that. We don’t know if it’s going to cause them to have health issues and mental concerns.”
The protest was organized in the “Unmask NACS Students Now” Facebook group, which was created by Striggle. According to him, the group is comprised of more than 500 members and has a “laser focus of taking off the masks from their kids.”
According to Lizette Downey, a NACS spokesperson, currently the district requires that masks be worn when people cannot be further than three feet apart, which complies with the guidelines issued by Governor Holcomb and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s harm that every minute that goes by that our kids have to continue to wear masks,” Striggle said.
At the end of the board meeting, the floor was open for parents to address the NACS school board. Sixteen parents, including Striggle, one middle school student and one elementary school student seized the opportunity to voice their concerns about the mask requirement. The majority of the parents were not wearing masks themselves.
The most common concerns included many parents fearing for their child’s mental health and not understanding why their child has to wear a mask “just to keep them from a virus that they have 99.997% of surviving.” One parent described watching her kids have to wear a mask at school as “heartbreaking.”
“[My child] comes home with a dirty rag on her face every day. She gets off the bus crying,” said Michael, a NACS parent who addressed the board members. “She is stressed and physically and emotionally suffering. This is not acceptable.”
Downey said NACS takes the parents concerns “very seriously.”
“Northwest Allen County Schools appreciate the passion that our parents and our community has about their children and their children’s well being,” Downey said. “We look forward to having an opportunity to explore our reopening plans as it relates to changes that have been made from the state level and looking to see if there’s other other compromises or things that we could be doing differently or better.”
Striggle said the group’s goal doesn’t end with the mask requirement.
“Once that’s accomplished, then we’re going to end all the other restrictions that are being put on our kids,” Striggle said. “Our kids should be able to go to proms and commencements and all these things at this point without any restrictions.”