Massachusetts Won’t Issue a Mask Mandate for Schools

Expect to see conservative lawmakers seizing another opportunity to make this public health crisis about “personal freedoms."

Photo of a sign that reads safety guidelines wear your mask at all times
The Massachusetts education department announced that students up to sixth grade would be encouraged—but not required—to wear masks. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

A debate about mask mandates is once again heating up, this time in Massachusetts.

A new school year is shortly upon us, and lawmakers across the country are weighing their options to stop the spread of the delta variant of the COVID-19 and keep students safe at school.

Some lawmakers seem to think cramming unmasked students into classrooms is a sensible plan. But Massachusetts state Sen. Becca Rausch has another idea. Rausch, a Democrat, proposed a bill last week to require universal masking in K-12 schools in Massachusetts.

The proposal comes after the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that vaccinated students would not be required to wear masks and that students up to sixth grade would be encouraged—but not required—to wear them.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association called the move a “reckless decision.” In Boston, Mayor Kim Janey had already announced that students returning to city public schools will be required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

“With less than a month before our children head back to school, this administration chooses to play Russian roulette with the health of Massachusetts students and families,” Rausch said in a statement she posted to Twitter.

We’ve been here before, of course. The debate about mask mandates has been a constant during the pandemic; with the surge of the delta variant, it’s not clear that merely encouraging mask wearing will be enough to stop the spread.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, expect to see conservative lawmakers seizing the opportunity to make this public health crisis about “personal freedoms” by arguing that mask mandates infringe on their rights.

Rewire News Group legal fellow Caroline Reilly wrote in December about how conservatives took their fight to gather at church during a global pandemic all the way to the Supreme Court. As Reilly wrote:

The Court ruled as if communion wafers contained the vaccine and holy water the antibodies; as if the 11th Commandment was “thou shall not murder thy neighbor unless it involves doing so through aerosols that will later lead to needing a ventilator.” Alas, we can’t pray this one away.

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.