Parents demand Cobb schools remove student mask mandate

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

The Cobb County School District’s recent decision to make masks optional for vaccinated students and staff is not enough for parents who want the system to scrap the requirement for all pupils.

Several parents spoke to board members and dozens more rallied Thursday outside the district’s central office headquarters. Many wore shirts and carried signs that said “unmask our kids.” No one spoke in favor of keeping the mask mandate in place for unvaccinated people.

Angelyn Raabe, who lives in Acworth, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before Thursday’s meeting that the Cobb school board is elected to represent parents’ vision for their children in the district. As a nurse, Raabe said she understands the pandemic is scary, but “we’ve got a handle on it now.”

She also said elementary school-aged children are not the main spreaders of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website states that “children, like adults, who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms (asymptomatic) can still spread the virus to others.”

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

“It is not my child’s responsibility to make sure that an adult doesn’t catch the virus and has issues from it, nor is it any kid’s responsibility to make sure the adults are safe,” she said. “This needs to be a choice. If you don’t want to wear a mask, then don’t wear a mask. And if you want to, great.”

The district changed its policy last week after the Centers for Disease Control released guidance that said people who are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear a mask or socially distance indoors or outdoors, except when it’s required by federal, state and local laws, as well as by local businesses and workplaces.

Two days later, however, the CDC said schools should keep COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place through the end of the school year. Despite that recommendation, Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the district’s decision to make mask optional will remain in place for the rest of the school year.

Cobb’s last day of school is May 26. As of Friday, the district reports more than 5,200 cases of COVID-19 among staff and students since Oct. 5.

West Cobb resident Kimberly Roberto said requiring children to wear masks in schools “has gone on far too long.”

Roberto, a holistic nutritionist who runs a chiropractic clinic with her husband, said she regularly sees kids who are stressed out because they have to wear masks. The emotional toll it takes on children who are being told constantly to make sure they are wearing their masks is “too much,” Roberto said.

“I’m all about personal health freedom,” she said. “Moms and dads make the decisions, not the school board.”

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Several Cobb parents last month filed a petition for a judge to impose a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the district’s mask requirement for students and its contract tracing policy for confirmed COVID-19 cases.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. rejected the request. Attorney Robert Madayag, who represents the parents, said they will not appeal the judge’s ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but do plan to challenge the school district’s policies in other ways.

Madayag told the AJC that the parents’ case hinges on whether a governing body has to ensure the safety of people affected by mask mandates or if it can “absolve all responsibility to an unelected body.”

“We the people don’t elect scientific bureaucrats in Washington, scientists that will never be held accountable nor responsible, to protect us,” he said. “We the people elect our government to do so. It is time the courts force governments to start doing what they were elected for — protect its citizens.”