News Story

School Policies On Student Face Mask Mandates Trigger Raucous Board Meetings

A growing movement among parents to pull children from districts over mask mandates

School districts across the state are wrestling with decisions about classroom face mask policies for the approaching 2021-22 school year. Michigan’s Schools of Choice law, enacted in the 1990s could raise the stakes for some districts. Under the law, parents can vote with their feet on school policies, including those on mask-wearing, by transferring their children to a school district that accommodates their preferences.

The law allows parents to unenroll children from their resident school district and send them to another district that is willing to accept them.

Tensions over mask policies can be seen in uncharacteristically heated school board meetings at a number of districts in the Lansing area. Some parents have told school board members they will remove their children from a school that has mandates they oppose.

Board members at Grand Ledge Public Schools have been through several contentious school board meetings. In some cases, parents called mask mandates child abuse while others were adamant that masks be required.

Amber Redman, a parent in the Grand Ledge district, stated in an Aug. 9 board meeting, “No more, we are done. At this time, if you choose to violate our children’s personal rights, and force them to cover their face with a mask and not be able to breathe healthily or properly as well as lose social and emotional skills they need at this age, then we will be unenrolling our children from Grand Ledge Schools.”

Redman noted that four Grand Ledge board members at the meeting were not wearing masks. She is a member of the Facebook group, “Grand Ledge Parents for Traditional Learning,” which has just over 100 members.

Parents in the group and those who testified at the meetings said they and many others have decided to remove their children after the board’s 5-2 vote to require masks in class. Some parents say they will homeschool, and others will exercise the schools of choice option.

Marcus Davenport, the superintendent of Grand Ledge Public Schools did not respond to request for comment. The school board also did not respond to questions about the new mask policy.

The organization Let Them Play Michigan! has also launched a campaign encouraging parents to pull their children from any school district with mask mandates for children.

Here’s a summary of mask policies at districts in the capital region:

The Lansing School District will require students and staff to wear masks when they are inside. Until recently, its officials only required masks for children under 12 years of age, who are not eligible to receive a COVID vaccine.

Okemos Public Schools will require masks.

Eaton Rapids Public Schools posted July 26 on its Facebook page, "At this time, we do not expect facemasks to be required; however, local and state health officials still recommend wearing masks indoors. With that said, should our area experience increased risk in the fall, facemasks will be required. We will continue to monitor cases and transmission."

Shanna Spickard, the new superintendent of Dewitt Public Schools, said in an email, “We are continuing to monitor the situation. At this time, masks are highly recommended, but they are not mandated.”

St. Johns Public Schools will allow families to choose whether their children will wear a mask, subject to change.

Waverly Community Schools has implemented a mask mandate, according to a Aug. 12 post on its Facebook page. It will decide on a monthly basis whether to continue the requirement.

Holt Public Schools' policy is to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and require masks based on the number of COVID-19 cases reported.

Charlotte Public Schools has offered the choice on whether to wear masks.

All schools mentioned participate in the School of Choice program. Schools that are mask optional are still required to mandate masks on school transportation due to a federal order.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.