Fed-up NYC parents demand an end to masking in schools

Fed-up New York City parents are demanding no masks in the classroom when school reopens in September.

Calling the coverings cruel, needless and detrimental to learning, some say they are even mulling homeschooling or private education options.

“I’m not willing to send him to school with a mask,” Manhattan mom Katherine Rohland said of her 3 1/2-year-old son, Robert, who is scheduled to go to a Department of Education pre-kindergarten program in the fall.

Rohland said the tot had to wear a mask at nursery school and immediately shut down, not talking to anyone, when he put it on. She said the facial covering also made it hard for him to be understood.

The family will enroll Robert in a private pre-K program if the DOE requires masks, Rohland said.

Stacie Tedesco, a speech pathologist who works with special needs students, said most of the time the kids did not wear masks at her school last year, and there was no coronavirus transmission between students and teachers.

Katherine Rohland and her son Ethan,3, in lower Manhattan.
Katherine Rohland opposes masks for her 3-year-old son.
Helayne Seidman for NY Post

She said she believed her 11-year-old, Christina, would be safe without a mask and was contemplating not sending her back to school if there was a mandate.

“We’re considering homeschooling,” she sad.

Mayor de Blasio said Monday that the city was “for now sticking with the idea that, you know, wearing the masks is a smart thing to do in schools. We’ll keep assessing as we go along. But I think for now it still makes sense.”

Bill de Blasio high fives students
Mayor de Blasio says masking kids in schools “still makes sense.”
Stephen Yang for NY Post

De Blasio’s remarks came after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for layered protection in order to reopen schools and advised that fully vaccinated children do not have to wear masks. The COVID-19 vaccine is approved for those 12 and up.

Parents of younger kids say they have trouble keeping the masks clean and that they impede services for those with special needs. One mom said her son’s speech therapist couldn’t work on his goals because she couldn’t see his mouth.

Debra Hreczuck of Brooklyn said her son, Nate, 8, got a bacterial infection on his face from wearing his mask in school and her daughter, Eliza, 5, struggled in kindergarten because she could not see the teacher’s face when she was making letter sounds.

Hrezuck said she lost her father-in-law to COVID-19 and was not shrugging off concerns about the virus. But she said with so many people vaccinated, she did not worry about her children going to school maskless and becoming ill.

“I feel like at this point, it’s more detrimental for them to be wearing masks than anything else,” she said.

Mariya Kharazishvili, a Queens mom, said her children attend a school that doesn’t have air conditioning, which was brutal in the heat with masks on.

“On one occasion, I didn’t send my children to school. It was going to be a hot day after a hot weekend and I knew they would be suffocating,” she said. “We are extremely apprehensive about what September will bring and I really think this should be choice.”

Students wear protective masks as they arrive for classes at the Immaculate Conception School.
Some parents are even mulling homeschooling options thanks to mask mandates.
John Minchillo/AP

Michael Kane, a Queens teacher who heads a caucus called Teachers for Choice, said the group opposes medical mandates.

“Every child under 6 should be unmasked immediately,” he said. “I feel like we are really taking this out on the wrong population.”

James Mermigis, a lawyer representing parents who sued the DOE in May to have schools fully reopen, said he will file more litigation if masks are mandated in city schools.

“Make it optional. There’ll be some families who want their kids to wear masks. We just want it to be optional,” he said. “The emergency’s over. Let’s allow the kids to be kids. They’ve gone through enough over the last year and a half.”


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