BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Mask mandates are still in effect for school districts across the state, causing frustration among parents who want face masks to be optional. Education leaders chose to keep the mask mandate in place while waiting for the stay to be issued.
Students at districts across Western New York were sent home from school or placed in in-school suspension Tuesday for refusing to wear a mask.
“We need to restore normalcy in our kids and in our schools. We need to let kids make that decision for their own personal choices, their own medical choices whether they want to wear a mask in school,” said parent Jen Merica.
Brian Wirth had to pick up his daughter from Holland High School because she did not want to wear a mask. “I’m not looking at the science, this is not a science battle of which side of the spectrum you’re on,” he said. “This is actually a battle of individual freedoms and rights, and my daughter’s, in this case, has been violated.”
“If the state comes back with a stay on the current ruling in Nassau County. Then will I send my child back to school? You know, she’s a high honor student and quite frankly the answer is yes, I will send her back. Again I believe they’re outside the bounds of the law and we’re going to have to handle it through the right channels legally,” Wirth added.
At Orchard Park High School, according to Orchard Park police, two students were escorted out by a school resource officer for not following the mandate. “My children all went to school this morning without their masks and I printed up copies of the order and I typed a letter saying that my children will not be wearing masks, the order was struck down,” said parent Robby Dinero. “Force them to wear a mask and we will pursue legal remedies available to us, and we are.”
Father Peter Del Prince, whose son attends River View Elementary School in Tonawanda, told his son that he could wear the mask if he wants to. Prince says it was important for him to make it clear to his son that he should have the choice. “If we don’t rise up as parents against this, our children are not going to understand,” he said. “I’m not against masks. I’m against not having the right to choose. The right to choose is being stricken down from us on a daily basis. This needs to end.”
In Niagara Falls, school superintendent Mark Laurrie said the district appeared to have no issues with students on Tuesday. He says the district wanted to wait to see what would happen in court. “We don’t want to react immediately when things come on immediately. We need to move slowly and cautiously,” he said. “You can see the light at the end of the tunnel though on this issue and as long as we’re able to keep kids in school and have the numbers decline I think we’re still in a good place.”
Parents in the Grand Island School District said that around a dozen high school students were placed in in-school suspension for not complying with the mandate.
In a statement to the district, School Superintendent Brian Graham released the following statement.
Dear Grand Island Families:
We have been closely monitoring the ongoing litigation concerning the mask mandate with our District’s attorneys, and have asked whether the most current ruling from Nassau County applies to the District. We have been advised that the District is required to follow directives issued by the New York State Education Department (NYSED), which was not a party to the Nassau County case.
Just a few moments ago, the NYSED issued another memo to Superintendents across NYS. Please review the response from NYSED:
“We are pleased the Appellate Division granted the application by the Department of Health and the Governor’s office, confirming the lower court’s decision is stayed pending further proceedings. As such, the mask mandate remains in effect for schools across the state. We support Governor Hochul and the state Department of Health as they continue with the appeal. We thank the members of our school communities for their patience during this process.”
Therefore, we must continue to require that masks be worn in school by all students, faculty, staff and visitors. We will, of course, continue to monitor this issue, and will evaluate any change in circumstances relating to the NYSDOH/NYSED mask mandate.
As always, we are committed to keeping our schools safe for all students, faculty and staff.
Pending any further developments, we will greatly appreciate your cooperation during these unprecedented times.