(HARRISBURG) – With students heading back to school, Senator Judy Ward (R-30) today questioned Wolf Administration officials about COVID-19 policies for local school districts during a Senate Education Committee hearing.
“I’m not sure we have the evidence that can address the concerns about masking children all day, every day,” said Senator Ward, who is vice chair of the committee. “The parents that I hear from every day have concerns about masking and the long-term effects on learning and their children’s health.”
Both the Department of Health and the Department of Education emphasized that Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations should be followed, including those calling for universal masking of students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam indicated the Wolf Administration supports the CDC recommendation and is asking school districts to follow it; however, the administration has no plans to institute a statewide mask mandate.
Senator Ward also asked Secretary Noe Ortega about what is being done for special needs children and the learning loss they have experienced due to things such as mask mandates.
“I have heard from parents of children with special needs to use facial cues in order to understand and work,” Senator Ward said. “I am concerned about what is being done to address their needs as masking continues to be discussed.”
The Senator emphasized that masking should be a decision handled by local school boards with parents having a say due to concerns about adverse health effects, inhibited breathing, student psychological development, decreased communication skills with other students and learning impairment.
Senator Ward is sponsoring a plan to allow parents and legal guardians to “opt out” their children from having to comply with a school’s mask mandate. The bill would mandate all school districts to develop (and abide by) a form that will allow parents or legal guardians to sign off on “opting out” their child from a mask mandate.
“Parents and legal guardians have the fundamental right to make health and educational decisions that are best suited for their children,” Senator Ward said.
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CONTACT: Cheryl Schriner