OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -- With just 8 days left in school, the Shawnee Mission School District is facing pressure yet again to drop its mask mandate.
A row of about three dozen parents and kids packed the sidewalk before Monday night’s school board meeting. Signs called school mask mandates “medical tyranny” and “psychological child abuse.”
One woman said her special needs son has regressed because of it.
“Because of the speech and the social-emotional issues that he has, not being able to see faces and expressions,” Angela Gantzer explained.
Down the street, a smaller group of residents - not district parents - gathered to counter-protest.
“The children are not inoculated. The science says that they do carry the disease,” said a woman whose daughter is a Shawnee Mission School District teacher.
The protest came with just eight days of school remaining.
“My youngest daughter was being sent home regularly, one to two times per week, with headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath,” Kristin Butler told the school board inside their regular meeting.
“Why are you holding our children hostage in a mask? Is it to force us to vaccinate our children with experimental mRNA vaccine?” another district mom asked rhetorically.
The passionate public comment session came at a meeting where the mask protocol was not on the agenda.
Some cited last week’s CDC guidance saying it’s okay to ditch the mask if you’re vaccinated. Others, including a young student, referred to other area districts doing away with their mask mandates as a result. Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs schools, both in Jackson County, have done so.
“It’s unfair that SMSD has to wear masks all day and other schools are unmasked,” young Lucas Cooley told the board. “Masks make me feel like I’m suffocating.”
One man ripped his mask off in defiance when the 3-minute buzzer went off and the next speaker was announced before he had finished.
“I’m out,” he said. “Take off your masks!”
The district’s chief communications officer speculated that the CDC guidance issued Thursday that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks caused some confusion if not ready thoroughly. It clearly has, because Saturday, the CDC clarified its guidance. In a dark purple box, at the top of their webpage, is a statement that reads, “CDC recommends schools continue to use the current COVID-19 prevention strategies for the 2020-2021 school year.”
Those who spoke against the mask protocol left when the board took a brief break. Immediately afterwards, the superintendent noted that nothing would change this school year. He remarked on the CDC guidance that existing school prevention strategies continue, to include masking, and said he would continue to seek guidance from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, as he has done from the early stages of the pandemic.
“As eligibility for vaccinations grow across all age groups, so too will the opportunity to adjust mitigation practices in schools, especially going into next school year,” said superintendent Dr. Mike Fulton.
Whatever decision are made will be guided by the advice of federal, state and local health authorities, he added. At this point, any decision is up to him alone since the board last July gave the superintendent the authority to create the COVID safety protocols. Fulton retires on July 1st.