Hibbing parents, students rally against school mask mandate

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Parents and students who disagree with a new mask mandate rallied outside of Hibbing High School on Monday as the new rule took effect.

Several dozen people attended a rally Monday morning holding signs with sayings including "freedom to choose," "unmask my kids," and "fascist mgmt."

The school district had started the year without a mask mandate, but the Hibbing School Board voted last week to implement the masking requirement for all K-12 students, school staff, and visitors. Superintendent Richard B. Aldrich says the change was based upon recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health, St. Louis County Public Health, Fairview Clinics, and Essentia Clinics.

"With recent COVID positive students and staff, we are also trying to preserve in-person learning for our students," Aldrich said in a statement to WDIO News.

Aldrich said students have the choice of wearing a typical surgical-style mask or a face shield, and says other accommodations may be allowed if a note is provided by a licensed healthcare provider.

Some parents said there was not enough notice of the new requirement. A private Facebook group with more than 400 members alleges that the new rule is "unlawful and unsafe." Many contend mask-wearing should be a choice.

"The purpose of this isn’t because we are all against mask, it’s about giving this kids and staff the right to make a choice! Choices are what this country is founded on! It should be a choice! Choice to wear or not wear!" Jessica McAllister, a parent, said in a message to WDIO.

"I am protesting because I believe I have my own choice to where my mask of I want to or if I don’t," 7th grader Brayden McAllister said in a message.

But Aldrich says not everyone disagrees with the mask requirement.

"We have heard from numerous community members that support the requirement, and have received many messages in the last three weeks from parents that requested the mask requirement," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control says COVID-19 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets, and says studies show masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.

There is no end date currently set for the mask requirement. Aldrich says they are hopeful that the COVID infectious period ends within the next three to six weeks so that they can drop the mask requirement as well.