Dori: Teachers’ unions push King County to extend school mask mandates

Mar 3, 2022, 4:37 PM | Updated: Mar 4, 2022, 8:00 am
A child wears a mask as they work on a project at school. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

School kids in New York could ditch their COVID masks while outdoors this week. In Oregon, masks will be optional at school starting March 19. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has relaxed mask guidance across the country for public settings – including schools.

And while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee set the statewide indoor mask mandate to end March 12, union leaders from nine King County school districts are pushing Public Health — Seattle & King County to make masks mandatory at school until at least May 1.

A Dori Monson Show listener sent a copy of the school leaders’ March 1 letter, signed by union leaders who say they represent more than 13,000 educators from Bellevue, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Lake Washington, Renton, Seattle, Shoreline, and Tukwila school districts.

“Masks contribute to feelings of safety and normalcy that schools provide our students. Removing masks will significantly disrupt that sense of normalcy, and educators will struggle to explain to students why we are removing masks so soon,” the educators wrote to King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin and interim Director Dennis Worsham.

The letter goes on to say that “prematurely allowing the mask requirement to expire in King County schools could cause serious harm.” Allowing mask removal earlier, school union officials claim, will “result in significant anxiety for many students, families, and educators, and exacerbate rather than help with the mental health crisis for them.”

“Second, we believe the negative impacts of lifting the mask mandate would be most heavily felt by our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities as well as by people with disabilities,” it continues.

The final point made in the letter is making masks optional before May 1 could prompt educators to “go on leave, which would worsen our current educator staffing shortage and unusually high number of student absences.”

“So March 12 is bad, but May 1 is good?” Dori asked.

Like many teachers require of their students with homework: “Show us your work. Tell us how you came up with May 1,” Dori challenged.

“If kids want to keep masks, if teachers want to keep masks, go ahead,” he continued. “But to force children to wear masks when there is no reason to do so? That is just teachers’ unions being cruel.”

Listen to Dori’s entire segment on King County educators’ unions pushing for at least two more months of student masking:

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Teachers’ unions push King County to extend school mask mandates