Parents protest face masks at school board meeting

By Cyndi Sellers

In Cameron Parish, just as in the rest of the country, the wearing of face masks at school has become a touchy issue. About a dozen parents attended Monday’s School Board meeting, unmasked, to express their objections to mandated face masks for school children, as required by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ recent proclamation. Last month the School Board had approved a policy that did not make masks mandatory. This week, in accordance with the Governor’s Aug. 2 proclamation, the Board was forced to change that position.

Supt. Charley Lemons read a lengthy statement, which has since been released on the Board’s website and Facebook page, outlining the legal position the Board finds itself in. It reads, in part:

“At this point, the issue is not ‘what is my opinion or what is that of our Board members.’ Rather, the issue is whether the district must follow the Governor’s mandates. Our legal counsel has advised us that we are obligated to comply with the Governor’s proclamation and that ignoring it may jeopardize our ability to enjoy the immunities granted by the legislature to protect our public funds. … As the Governor also pointed out, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), and local health officials have all recommended that persons within school buildings wear masks.”

“Finally, we cannot lose sight of our goals: (1) to keep our students and employees safe, and (2) to keep our schools open. We know that kids learn better in the actual classroom and that they gain important social skills when they interact with each other in person. The use of masks will allow us a greater chance at achieving those goals.”

Lemons pointed out that under the new quarantine guidelines, “if both the [positive] case and the contact are engaged in consistent and correct use of a well-fitting face mask and were within 3 to 6 feet of each other, then those close contacts do not need to quarantine.”

Lemons said he and the Board members took an oath to follow the law, and that oath does not give them the option of choosing which laws to comply with and which to dismiss, just as students do not have the option of choosing which rules to follow. The Governor’s Proclamation expires Sept. 1, so as of now, students will wear masks indoors for 14 days.