Parents protest Palm Beach County's school mask requirements

At least 50 parents, along with some children, rally outside school district headquarters
Parents protest the School District of Palm Beach County's face mask policy on May 7, 2021 (1).jpg
Posted at 7:50 AM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 13:45:42-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Dozens of parents gathered at the School District of Palm Beach County's headquarters on Friday morning to rally against the district's COVID-19 policy which requires students to wear masks in school.

The group of at least 50 people, part of an ongoing campaign called "Unmask Palm Beach County Kids," gathered along Forest Hill Boulevard, waving signs and shouting at passing cars.

Some parents even brought their children along to the protest.

"We just want masks optional," said Julie Damsker, the organizer of Friday's rally. "You want to wear you mask, wear your mask. But my kids are not doing well with one, and it’s my choice. It’s my child."

Currently, the School District of Palm Beach County requires all students to wear facial coverings "inside District buildings, riding on school buses, and walking through open-air hallways during class changes," but not when eating and drinking while seated.

In addition, "students in grades K-12 are not required to wear facial coverings during outdoor physical education classes if maintaining social distancing of at least six feet or more is possible."

Earlier this week, the school district took a small step toward easing restrictions by planning to reopen school campus playgrounds and allow students to remove their masks during outdoor activities "if social distancing is maintained."

A school district spokeswoman said Friday that elementary school playgrounds will begin reopening Tuesday.

"Playtimes may be staggered to accommodate social distancing guidelines," a spokeswoman said in a written statement. "Facial coverings will be optional for students. Students will be advised to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before entering the playground and upon returning inside the school building."

An online petition has garnered more than 5,000 signatures from people who want the mask requirements lifted. Parents said it's not healthy for their kids to be in a face covering all day and they want to see change.

"All year long, my kids have been crying everyday," Damsker said. "They don’t want to go to school. They hate their new life. They don’t like anything about what’s going on at school."

"I have a three-year-old in the school. He’s an ESE student, and I really think some of the ESE students have trouble, especially the young ones," said parent Melissa Maitland.

Right now, the school district said its mask policy remains in place, but leaders will reevaluate it as we approach the new school year.

"The District is continuing to monitor health conditions and review current safety protocol for any potential changes to facial covering policies for the next school year," a spokesperson said.

Some Palm Beach County School Board members said they need to start having those conversations soon.