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Pair of online petitions show Carroll parents differ on mask-wearing in upcoming school year

Two petitions are circling social media,both regarding wearing masks during the upcoming school year at Carroll County Public Schools. One is calling for masks to be mandatory and the other is calling for it to remain optional.

As some Central Maryland districts have required mandatory masking for the 2021-2022 school year,, Carroll has so far stuck with its optional rule. Ed Singer, the county health officer, said at a July 14 meeting that if transmission of COVID-19 remains low, he does not see a need for mandating masks.

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He did suggest, however, “that we try to do what we can to spread kids out, cohort kids, maybe take some other measures. And we also probably need to take some considerations as to whether or not we start seeing local increases in cases as we start getting back to school and whether we have to consider masking.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised students and staff to wear masks in schools regardless of vaccine status and Lindsay Jensen, a Carroll County Public Schools parent, agreed. She started a petition to make masks a requirement for at least the students who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

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The petition notes children under 12 cannot yet receive the vaccine, the rise in COVID-19 cases as the Delta variant spreads, the school system’s recent removal of the virtual option and the difficulty social distancing next school year as students are scheduled to attend five days a week.

Jensen said her motivation for the petition was to show Carroll’s board of education there are parents who support mask-wearing. She said later that the board accommodated for mask wearing before “and I don’t understand why they can’t accommodate this fall, especially with the Delta variant on the rise.”

The petition, which was posted last Tuesday, had approximately 1,000 signatures as of late Wednesday afternoon. Soon after Jensen’s petition was posted in various Facebook groups, so was the counter-petition.

It stated that masks for the upcoming school year are unnecessary, that they cause fear and create unhealthy learning environments. Like the pro-masking petition, the petition calling for the board to keep masks optional was created through change.org. However, it was taken down, according to the group that created the petition, the Concerned Parents of Carroll County Maryland.

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The group’s website stated change.org told them the petition violated community guidelines, and the group claimed they were censored.

Amanda Mustafic, deputy communications director for change.org, said the petition was taken down due to an error and has since been restored to the platform.

A new petition, posted on the Concerned Parents’ website, stated sticking with the current mask policy “gives parents the option to choose based on their personal health records, or exposure to ones at risk while also giving parents an option to remove the masks as they know what’s best for their own children.” As of late Wednesday afternoon, the new petition had approximately 680 signatures.

The Concerned Parents of Carroll County group did not return requests for comment.

Jensen said she supported the group’s freedom of speech, “just like they should be supporting mine.” However, she said she does not think their view of “we’ll do what’s best for my kid and you do what’s best for yours” is in the best interest of all students.

Doing what’s best for all the students who will be returning to school, she said, “might require a mask.”

Jensen said she hopes her petition has an impact on the board of education’s decision on mask wearing but she doesn’t have a lot of confidence. She does, however, hope the state makes a mask mandate.

“If there are going to be masks in schools, I don’t know if it’s going to come from our board,” she said.

Marsha Herbert, president of Carroll’s board of education, did not return a request for comment.

The next board of education meeting is Aug. 11 at 5 p.m.

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