ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — On “No Mask Monday,” the Washington County School District said students have a choice. They can choose to comply with the K-12 mask mandate or they can choose to go home with their parents.
Steven Dunham, the district’s director of communications, confirmed with ABC4 News that several of their students tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Pine View High School senior Camron Bingham said that was a risk he was willing to take when he showed up to school without a mask.
“I don’t like wearing masks,” Bingham said. “You can’t breathe. I like to breathe fresh air.”
“Someone stopped me and asked if I wanted to be in school,” his sister Rylee, a sophomore, said. “I said, I do, but masks aren’t really my thing.”
Although about 35,000 students attend public schools in the county, administrators say only six of their students refused to wear a mask and went home with their parents.
School officials say their goal is to keep the schools open, and if masks provide a reasonable level of safety, public health, and general welfare, they’re a “small price to pay” for teachers, some at high risk, to educate students.
Dunham was unable to reveal how many positive cases there are, the students’ ages or the schools they attend, or how many have needed to quarantine as a result. Dunham confirmed that so far, no teachers or staff have tested positive.
“If a student tests positive, we’re taking that on a case by case basis,” Dunham said. “We’re looking at who they’ve been around, how close were they, for how long, and if they were wearing a mask. We’re working through that data with the health department to see if anyone else needs to be isolated.”
The “No Mask Monday” event circulated among the nearly 1000 attendees at Friday’s rally in St. George calling for the end of a mask mandate in schools.
That’s where Candice Nay, mother of Camron and Rylee, said she heard about the students’ plans. She said she is standing behind her children and believes adults should be taking responsibility for their children.
“I will be by their side and respect their choices to not wear masks,” Nay said. “If that’s what they want to do, then you can give me a misdemeanor and I can go to court.”
Violating the order for K-12 students and teachers in Utah would be the same as violating any mandate, which could result in a Class B misdemeanor. The governor’s office confirmed any enforcement would be on the local level.
“We had more parents bring thank you notes and treats to our schools than we had students go home with their parents for not wearing a mask,” Dunham said. “We’ve had so many parents who have supported us from the very beginning.”