State lawmakers considering school health measures

Bills would limit school mask and vaccine mandates
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 8:47 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Michigan Senate is considering legislation that would limit school districts’ ability to put many COVID-19 protocols in place. The proposals would limit the mask, vaccine, and testing requirements schools could impose.

Supporters of the package said parents should ultimately be the ones deciding what’s best for their kids, but school districts said the mask requirements are to keep kids in the classroom.

“The only way to keep our kids face to face and safe is to have a mask mandate implemented in our school,” said Kasi Carr, who supports mask mandates in schools.

Carr has three children going to school in Jackson County. Their schools don’t require masks. She said, if Jackson Intermediate School District had a mask mandate, her preschooler wouldn’t have gotten COVID from his teacher.

“He didn’t develop any severe symptoms and didn’t need to be hospitalized, but he was very sick for a week. That was definitely scary,” said Carr.

The Republican package of bills making its way through the Senate would prevent schools from requiring masks, vaccines that are still under emergency use authorization and COVID testing.

Senator Tom Barrett sponsored one of those bills. He said it’s about giving control to the parents.

“It shouldn’t be determined by one school district or an adjacent school district what your rights are. We want to protect the rights of every parent and every child in Michigan,” said Sen. Tom Barrett, (R) Potterville.

“As a mother, I know my children best. Therefore I should be the one determining which mitigation strategies work best to maintain the wellness of my children. It is not the place of unelected public health officials to make these decisions,” said one woman who spoke before legislatures in favor of the bill.

But Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said that’s exactly where her place is.

“This is no different than cases of chickenpox, cases of mumps, cases of measles in schools and what it is we are required to do to make sure, should there be cases of those diseases in schools, we do our best to prevent other children from getting them,” said Vail.

East Lansing Public Schools (ELPS) superintendent Dori Leyko agrees. ELPS was one of the first in mid-Michigan to put in a universal mask mandate for this school year.

“We’re responsible for community health, not just each individual student but our community as a whole,” said Leyko.

If the bills are approved by the legislature, Governor Gretchen Whitmer likely will veto the proposal.

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