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Washougal students protest school mask mandate, argue for ‘right to choose’

Feb 7, 2022, 3:26 PM

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A sign warning of the requirement for face masks. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

A group of high school students in Washougal, led by Cade Costales, are protesting the mask mandate.

Costales and two other students created the “Freedom Fighters of Washougal,” and their group is not taking the position that no one should wear masks at school, but rather that it should be a choice.

“Me and the other two guys that are running this, we’ve always been raised in a conservative Christian household, and we’ve always talked about our freedoms and how we’re able to practice those freedoms, and we just felt … that it was against our freedoms, and we thought that we deserve the right to choose what is best for our own medical health,” Costales told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

“We know that there are people who are at a health risk, or they have family members that are at a health risk,” Costales said, and they support their choice to wear a mask. “We just feel that it should be up to the student and their parents whether or not the mask is appropriate to wear or not.”

The movement started with 75 to 100 students participating. Now, the group’s platform has grown “exponentially,” Costales said, and a video of the students has gone viral.

“We have people all around Washington state and even the U.S. supporting us,” Costales said. “And we definitely have quite a few more students that have kind of realized that they’re not alone in this. So we plan on following up with another protest, and we expect quite a few more students to participate in that one.”

For the protest, as Costales explains, all the students participating meet in the student parking lot.

“I made sure to reiterate the fact that we were going in peacefully and respectfully,” he said. “If we were asked to leave, then we would all leave for the day. And so as soon as the bell rung, we walked into the building, and we were met with our principal and four other faculty members. And they announced over the group that if our intent was to walk in without a mask, then they asked us to leave, and that is exactly what we all did — 75 to 100 students were absent that day.”

The school district, Costales said, has shown no support and hasn’t acknowledged the protest.

“Teachers, individually, have had discussions in their classes about it, but the school hasn’t made a discussion about it,” he added.

He did admit that he expected to get more pushback than they did.

“I was expecting that we were all going to be suspended for attempting to walk into the building without a mask, but that didn’t happen,” Costales said. “We had one suspension, but that was for a different scenario, but I definitely wasn’t expecting as little pushback as we got.”

Costales says, to them, it’s worth risk of suspension because they feel “the mask mandate is infringing on our freedom of choice.”

“We feel that the majority of the students, at least in our high school, and most likely high schools around Washington state, feel that they are not being protected by the masks,” he said. “They feel that the masks are pointless in their scenario, and they feel it should be a choice. We just kind of used our platform and this protest as a way of getting our voices heard.”

“Our biggest frustration is that … we feel that it’s not necessarily about our health anymore,” he added. “Because even the masks that they provide at the school are made out of cloth, and the CDC has come out and said that the cloth masks are ineffective to prevent and stop the spread of COVID. So we just feel that it’s kind of pointless at this point.”

Listen to the full interview below: 

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Washougal students protest school mask mandate, argue for ‘right to choose’