Parents protest kids’ mask mandate on first day of school

Right after getting their kids off to the first day of class, parents on both sides of the North Dakota-Minnesota border had an assignment of their own to tackle. They lined up outside their children’s schools with homemade signs to protest the mask mandate imposed on students by both the Fargo and Moorhead school districts.

Anyone entering or working in school buildings must be masked, vaccinated or not, including educators and visitors. One father’s placard read: “Zero COVID deaths ages 0-16 in North Dakota. FACTS over FEAR.” The protest attracted media coverage, including KVRR-TV.

More than 30 people gathered outside Carl Ben Eielson Middle School Monday morning to protest a Fargo School Board policy that requires students to wear face coverings.

The demonstrators, carrying signs with messages that read “You’re bullying kids” and “No one’s saying you can’t wear one” were lined up on the sidewalk  along 13th Ave. S.  One of the demonstrators played bagpipes as he walked among the crowd.

“What we’re more adamant about is parents’ choice” according to Cassie Schmidt, a spokesperson for a group called Let Parents Decide That.

“It should be each family’s decision what they would like to do.  Where there is risk, there has to be consent.  Masks are under emergency use authorization right now.  A lot of people don’t know that.  That’s just another issue with these measures. There’s not a lot of transparency” Schmidt said.

On the Minnesota side of the Red River in Moorhead, another group of parents mobilized against the mandate. They say it should be up to parents and families to choose whether their kids wear masks. But school officials gave no indication of budging from the controversial decision, according to Inforum newspaper.

Despite some opposition, the school district plans on holding students and staff accountable as the coronavirus delta variant rapidly spreads nationwide and locally.

Students without masks will be subject to mask education. Those who do not comply with the mask rules will be offered alternate methods of education after four offenses.

Staff, meanwhile, will face disciplinary action and even termination for not complying.

Parents say they plan to organize more protests, hoping to put the pressure on what they fear may be an open-ended policy with no finish line in sight.

“Just looking at the students outside the school here, I could see that it looked like at least a third of them were not even wearing their masks, they’re all standing within one foot of each other” Paul Letvin said.  “Logistically, how much sense does it make to force them to wear masks inside when they’ve already been standing outside, right next to each other with no masks on? It makes no sense.”