Parents unhappy with school mask mandate

Gov. JB Pritzker’s mandate for universal masking in schools is not sitting well with several parents who spoke out against it at the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meeting Aug. 26.

Among them was state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-47, Elmhurst), who criticized the governor and other Democrats.

“I’m here tonight to warn you that you cannot count on the majority party in the legislature in Springfield to protect you from executive overreach,” she said. “The data in DuPage and in this district in particular did not justify the draconian actions that the governor is going to impose on you, especially when it’s weighed against the real-world harm that your students have already experienced, to say nothing about the damage and the infringement to civil liberties, the invasion into personal health decisions that belong to an individual and their doctor and even to the right of collective bargaining.”

Kristen Engle, co-chair of the recently launched Hinsdale-Burr Ridge Chapter of Awake Illinois, said her group is a nonprofit social welfare organization supporting constitutional and parental rights of Illinoisans.

“The perception that elected school boards have a role in health care decisions or medical decisions is worrisome,” she said. “We support parental rights regarding facial masking, viral testing, asymptomatic quarantine and/or COVID-19 vaccination of our children.”

Hinsdale parent Lisa Milligan told board members she expects them to stand up for kids when it comes to masking.

“I just feel like it’s ridiculous to put kids in masks for eight hours,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion. “Even if they wear them over their nose, they are still touching their faces. I just don’t feel like they are effective.

“Your voices and positions hold power, and I urge you to band together with your peers and push back on the mask mandate ... so that we can keep our kids from missing critical amounts of instruction and social interaction. Our kids have suffered, our kids have sacrificed,” Milligan added.

Donna DiCagni, parent of two Central graduates and one future student, said if flimsy pieces of fabric actually protect students from COVID-19, then no one would need to be quarantined if a fellow classmate tests positive.

“This is child abuse to put these on kids every day all day long,” she said. “It needs to end and you guys need to stand up for our kids and fight for them to get these masks off our kids.”

Board member Jeff Waters said student suffering related to COVID-19 mitigations greatly outweighs the benefits. He also cited increases in depression and anxiety documented in a New York Times article and pointed to a lack of COVID-related deaths in the 10-19 age group in DuPage County.

“We are leaders. We need to be leaders,” he said. “That’s what we were elected to do.”

Board member Peggy James suggested the board have its lawyer draft a resolution to enjoin the Pritzker administration, if necessary, for interfering with board decisions, adding that she is not suggesting “throwing out” layered mitigation.

“We are the leaders elected at the local level,” James said. “We as a school board must be able to make decisions in the best interests of our community.”

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean