Orcutt’s parents rally to protest mask-wearing in schools
ORCUTT, Calif. — Parents and other community members held a rally outside the offices of the Orcutt Union School District on Tuesday morning to protest the continued wearing of masks in schools.
“We’re here to help kids take their masks off,” mother Jenevieve Strommen said. “Anyone can take them off, why not our children?”
Protesters included adults and children, who braved rain and cold temperatures during the 90-minute rally.
Most of those present held signs denouncing the wearing of masks or waved American flags, and cheered every time a car honked by.
“I think it’s great that people are starting to come out and just say no more,” mother Kristen Pruett said. “I think it’s a great group we have here today, and it’s really encouraging to see our small little community having such a good turnout.”
Protesters pointed out that while the state of California recently lifted the mask mandate last week in most indoor settings, mask wearing remains in place for schools.
“It’s crazy,” Pruett said. “It makes no sense why we can go and do all these other things, but we have to mask our kids, and that’s just not right.”
Parents said they grew increasingly frustrated to see crowds without masks in large gatherings, while children must continue to wear them in much smaller settings.
“I just think it’s been long enough,” said parent Mark Crisp. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was watching all of our politicians at the Super Bowl, at the NFC championship game, no one wears a mask, and then they lift the mask mandate for everyone in the entire state except the least vulnerable, which is our children.”
Orcutt Union School District Superintendent Holly Edds said after the rally that the district is simply obeying current state health guidelines and does not have the ability to develop its own policy regarding face coverings.
“Current guidelines for K-12 schools that have been put in place by the California Department of Public Health as well as Cal/OSHA guidelines require masks to be worn in a school setting for students and for staff,” Edds said. “It is our desire to keep our campuses open and we are doing everything we can to make that happen, so following the current health order is how we do it, and we will continue to follow the current guidelines as they keep changing”
Last week, just before the indoor mask mandate was lifted, the California Department of Public Health said it would wait two weeks before a decision was made for schools.
Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to provide an update on school guidance on Monday, February 28.
“We don’t know what it will be,” Edds said. “We don’t know if it will be a date, when the guidance will change, or if there will be some type of system response, which is like what we’ve had before with levels. We don’t we just don’t know. We’re not hearing a lot of information, but we do know that they’re working on it at the state level and they’ve asked for input from stakeholders.
Those present at Tuesday’s rally are hoping Newsom will announce that the school mask order will end immediately.
“I hope he overturns the mask mandate for kids,” Crisp said. “It’s supposed to be science and if it’s all about science then why are we masking children but not everyone? It doesn’t make sense to me personally and I hope they repeal the mandate of the mask.”
Strommen was particularly critical of Newsom and his actions during the nearly two-year pandemic.
“He’s a two-tiered hypocrite,” Strommen said. “He doesn’t apply any of the things he applies to everyone to himself or his family, and he’s proven that for the whole two years. Everything he says, he comes back to it.”
When asked what her message to the school district was, she pleaded with leaders to support parents who are against the mask mandate.
“Fight for us,” Strommen said. “You have a lot of power. Fight for us. Take a stand. Say how important it is to your community. If you care, fight for us. If they really cared, they would say, hey, our district is going to stand against this.