One group of children who continue to be left out of the masks in school debate are children with disabilities. Someone tried to argue with me that the laws in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina do not “prohibit” wearing masks but merely makes wearing a mask a choice. That is true; however, not mandating masks puts every child with a disability in harm’s way. Most of these laws also disbanded virtual learning, leaving parents to decide whether to risk sending their children to school or have them lose time and effort in their educations. This is not much of a choice.
In Miami, FL, Disability Independence Group has sued Ron DeSantis for his failure to protect 15 children. One of them is a 10-year-old with Down Syndrome, who had been looking forward to returning to school after a long absence. His parents cannot safely return him to school, as statistics show that people with Down syndrome are five more times likely to be hospitalized and four times more likely to die. There are tens of thousands of children in Florida who fall into this category. One 3-year-old has already died in Florida. Is that not enough to make DeSantis reconsider his actions?
In Georgia, Brian Kemp has so far steered clear of issuing an order banning mask mandates in schools, even though he issued one for businesses that they are free to ignore local ordinances regarding masks. Cobb County, one of the biggest school districts in Georgia, is experiencing a dangerous spike in Covid 19 in school children. ProPublica told the story of one distressed mother who attended an open house in preparation for her children’s return to school. Horrified by the lack of masks, crowded hallways, and seeming disregard of a homeroom teacher, the mother felt she had three choices: send her children to private school (which she could not afford), home schooling, or moving, none of which were realistic. Out of desperation, she entered her daughters into a lottery for seats in a virtual-only charter school that recently opened additional slots. She was in luck: Her children got in. Everyone is not so lucky. Instead, parents are scrambling looking for safe alternatives for their children. Cobb County’s Board of Education has banned any discussion of Covid-19 from its meetings, and one board member, David Banks, sent a disinformation video to parents about masks and vaccines. The Board is comprised of four Republicans and three Democrats, and they recently voted to allow a majority of four to rule. What a surprise.
Conservatives continue to claim they care about life, but that is merely more “smoke and mirrors” from a group that has perfected the art of the using fear tactics to get their constituents riled up, even to their own detriment. If conservatives truly cared about life, they would be doing everything in their power to protect our children who have already been born and who are trying to get educated. Stop the lip service and do something constructive like protecting children.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years