Mask mandates expose the mulishness of public education bureaucrats while others buck policy

According to Burbio’s Mask Policy Tracker, only seven of the 500 largest school districts in the United States (1.4%) had a mask mandate in effect for students beginning the 2022-2023 school year.  

This stands in stark contrast to the more than 70% of schools having mandates in place one year ago. 

These numbers must be leavened with the realization that twelve states have either a statewide mandate ban in place (4 states) or have ongoing litigation leaving mandates in legal limbo (8 states).  

Most states have flexible policies in place, with many dependent on triggers tied to rates of infections and/or hospitalizations in local areas.  

These “trigger” policies have been challenged as reflexive, knee-jerk responses to fluid and dynamic circumstances.  

In a recent episode involving the San Diego Unified School District, briefly reaching a preordained threshold of infectious activity set in motion a full-scale mask mandate and remote Zoom-based learning environment for those unwilling to comply with in-person masking. 

But not all cities and regions are as willing today to adopt mitigation measures as in earlier months. Los Angeles County, for example, had to embarrassingly backtrack on its recently invoked indoor mask mandate when several large cities in the county publicly refused to go along. 

Again in LA, a Superior Court judge recently prohibited the Los Angeles Unified School District from enforcing its student/staff vaccine mandate, upending the cornerstone of the LAUSD’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy. 

The once-assumed compliance with “expert” determinations made by public and school health officials is all but gone. Parents have seen the data for themselves showing the ineffectiveness of masking among school-aged children, a population least likely to either contract or spread COVID-19 or suffer serious health consequences from exposure. 

The rates of infection between masked students and unmasked are nearly identical, yet many districts insist on clinging to mask mandates even when faced with legal challenges. 

The reliance on rote recitation of institutional guidance memos from organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) has left many educational jurisdictions vulnerable to court sanctions.  

Having not done the heavy lifting of analyzing data for themselves – such as in the case of the Rhode Island Director of Public Health, James McDonald, who admitted to doing no research of his own, instead relying entirely on CDC guidance documents – it’s all but impossible for such officials to mount an effective defense of their decisions.  

In McDonald’s case the judge made clear officials cannot rely on their ignorance of politically suppressed data, awareness of which would have likely led to different policy outcomes. 

However, despite clear and available evidence to the contrary, there are some in the educational establishment fully invested in a virtue signaling exercise having little or nothing to do with health.  

Outside of the establishment, the pendulum has swung fully away from the lockdown mentality of early 2020, as once-universally respected medical and scientific icons, such as the WHO and the National Institutes of Health, have been found wanting.  

If this trend continues, the 2022-2023 school year may yet be known as this decade’s most hopeful and unencumbered.