US parents divided on school mask mandates, poll finds

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US parents divided on school mask mandates, poll finds

American parents are divided on requirements for students and staffers to wear masks in schools to keep the coronavirus in check, a new survey released Tuesday reveals.

Forty-eight percent of K-12 parents want all students masked during in-person instruction for the new school year, while 41 percent said they oppose a mask mandate, the Gallup web poll of 674 respondents between August 16-22 found.

Another 11 percent of parents said only students who are unvaccinated should wear masks.

Similarly, 48 percent of parents want all teachers and staffers masked, while 38 percent said they were opposed.

Another 13 percent of parents said only unvaccinated staffers should be masked.

“Last year’s protests by some parents about their children’s school not being open for full-time, in-person instruction have given way to protests about mask policies in school this year,” Gallup said in its analysis of the findings.

Amy Facchinello, a Grand Blanc school board member, cheers on a parent who spoke against the county's K-6 school mask mandate in Flint, Mich.
Amy Facchinello, a Grand Blanc school board member, cheers on a parent who spoke against the county’s K-6 school mask mandate in Flint, Michigan.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP

“Mask mandates are defended by those who support them as the best way to achieve normalcy this school year, but they are criticized by opponents as ineffective, dangerous and a violation of personal freedoms.”

The analysis notes that the mask mandate remains a volatile issue, with less than a majority registering support.

The Biden Administration’s Education Department has launched a probe into five states — Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah — that have imposed a ban on school masking, saying it could violate students’ civil rights.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom sits with students of a second grade classroom at Carl B. Munck Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. on Aug. 11, 2021.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom sits with students of a second-grade classroom at Carl B. Munck Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. on Aug. 11, 2021.
Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

Other states such as New York are requiring students and staff to wear masks.

The survey found that 60 percent of 16- 18-year-old students have received the COVID-19 vaccine, as have 47 percent of 12- 15-year-old students.

The vaccination rate for kids aged 12 to 15 lags that for children aged 16 to 18, likely because the COVID-19 vaccines did not receive authorization for the younger group until May. Kids aged 16 and older were covered in the first authorization in December 2020.

Carroll Independent School District parents protest for a mask mandate before the school board meeting on Aug. 23, 2021 in Southlake, Texas.
Carroll Independent School District parents protest for a mask mandate before the school board meeting on Aug. 23, 2021 in Southlake, Texas.
Yffy Yossifor/Star-Telegram via AP

The survey was taken as the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant has triggered another wave of infections throughout the country, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

Even with the surge in COVID-19 cases, 77 percent of parents say they expect their children will return to a pre-pandemic school schedule this year.

The Gallup web survey has an overall margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

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