Schools Kids in Masks? A Boatload of Problems

Imagine children required to wear a mask for six to seven hours a day. What could possibly go wrong?  First off, they will commit all the errors of adults many times over, so they’ll essentially be wearing a petri dish across their mouths.  This will be a huge headache for teachers, who will either give up on mask discipline or allow education to suffer.

When called on in class, students will punk their teachers by mumbling incoherently into their masks.  Gossip and ribbing can be done without the teacher observing lips move.  In schools with uniforms, students can inflict identity mischief on faculty and staff.  The use of lab partners will be abandoned because they both violate social distancing and communication would be difficult. Interactive education will suffer, causing another headache for teachers.

How often will schools provide students new masks?  Every two hours as recommended in health-care facilities, or will they be issued one at the start of the day.  Following sound guidelines will be a costly headache for administrators.

Sports and physical education without masks would negate most of the benefit of mandating masks, so kids will probably only be allowed to sit outdoors on occasion.  Locker rooms for school sport teams will pose yet another headache for teachers/coaches.

Masks will inevitably become a fashion statement.  If allowed, ineffective cloth masks will replace school issued disposables.  The kids will wear their favorite mask repeatedly, so it will not only be porous, but contaminated.  If schools mandate disposable school-issued masks, then sharpies will suddenly become de rigueur.  Kids are highly creative and will come up with clever slogans and messages to write on their masks.  Some of them might make teachers blush.  Even if personal messages are outlawed, teachers will need to wander up and down the aisles to inspect masks.  

What message do masks give our youth?  That’s it’s a scary world out there.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  Your friends can kill you.  Playing can kill you.  Outdoors is a threat. Children will become anxious and highly emotional causing mental health to become a hazard of school attendance.  Students will break down crying at the slightest provocation.  A serious headache for teachers.

The worst-case scenario?  Despite all these precautions, a COVID-19 hot spot materializes at school.  A class-action suit against the school is inevitable and lawyers will have no difficulty in finding studies and expert witnesses that will blame the outbreak on the masks themselves or on poor mask discipline.  Lawsuits will be a massive headache for schools.

Children and young adults have strong immune systems.  In the United States only 2% of COVID-19 cases were in people under 18 years of age, and of those youngsters who catch the disease, 99.94% survive according to an analysis of Covid19 deaths in New York City. Nationally, COVID-19 deaths for people under 25 year of age is 151, with 125 of those being over 15 years of age.  Total deaths from all causes for this age group is 20, 076, thus COVID-19 accounts for less than 1% of all deaths for this age group.  A child is far more likely to die in a car crash on the way to school than from COVID-19 contracted once at school.

Mandating masks for school children has limited benefits and huge risks.  All to protect a population segment that is not even seriously threatened by this disease.  School Districts should reconsider mask policies.

James D. Best, author of Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and the Steve Dancy Tales, among other books.

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