The superintendent of the Anchorage School District wants parent to know that the masking of children has become a political issue in the schools.
She is asking students, families, employees, and others to “allow our public schools to be a true respite from the political theater for which we adults are participating.”
That might not be possible. What she calls political, other parents are calling a threat to their children’s health, well-being, and constitutional rights.
A group of Anchorage parents is launching a statewide legal fund to fight the district on its masking policy for students. The group, called Alaskans for Children’s Right to Breathe, is consulting with a lawyer.
Leaders of the new group were involved with the Save Anchorage and Open Alaska grassroots groups, both of which have become active in supporting businesses in Anchorage during the former mayor’s draconian lockdowns of the state’s largest city.
Elizabeth Welsh of Open Alaska is taking the lead and will meet with an attorney on Monday to advance a lawsuit on behalf of parents and children in the Anchorage schools. She is looking for parents to join the group.
They can be reached via email at [email protected]
The group launched a Facebook page on Saturday at this link.
Superintendent Deena Bishop last month announced her masking policy, which puts all children, ages K-12, into face masks during the opening weeks of school. She said the policy could change later, but right now she believes she is following the science, not politics.
“To be pointed, there are many people internal to our organization who like the fall mask wearing plan and those who do not,” Bishop wrote to parents in an email on Saturday.
“No matter our personal views, we are choosing to enter our schools every day to serve children in a safe manner. I have decided on a plan for ASD that supports the preponderance of scientific evidence during this time of COVID-19, a new virus in our history. As your superintendent, I have an ask for you as students, families, employees, and community members in doing your best to support a great start to this school year.
“The topic of wearing a mask is the most polarizing aspect of ASD’s fall COVID-19 response plans and has become a political target. Schools are a microcosm of the community. Hence, if the virus is in our community, it is in our schools. If mask wearing is an issue in our community, so is it in our schools,” she wrote.
“Allow our teachers and students to focus on what matters most, improving student outcomes. The fall mitigation provides for appropriate mask breaks as well as flexibility when our viral load lessens in the community. We owe it to our kids and employees of ASD to have a strong start to their 2021-2022 school year,” Bishop wrote.
Bishop said that at 7 pm Monday, she will host a Facebook Live event with Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s Chief Medical Officer, and her team from the State Division of Public Health, which can be watched at this link.
“This will be a time for families to learn more about the mitigation plans and where our community presently stands with COVID. Details can be found at asdk12.org. Please enjoy your final days before school starts next week. The School Board’s mission of Educating All Students for Success in Life awaits. Our students cannot find success in school without our parents, employees, and the greater community. Let’s work together to keep our doors open so our children can grow and learn,” Bishop said.
Nationally, there are similar legal actions being taken against school districts.
A mask mandate in Nevada has been responded to with a federal lawsuit from attorneys seeking class-action status for claims that the constitutional rights of thousands of parents and children at Las Vegas-area schools are being violated. Schools opened last Monday in Las Vegas.
In Alabama, a judge denied a group has parents’ who asked for a temporary restraining order. The judge ruled that the parents’ concerns over forced masking did not outweigh the public health risks of unmasked in-person learning. The judge also said the school board had authority to order a mask mandate.
In Atlanta, a group started a GoFundMe page to raise money for a legal challenge of the Gwinnett County school mask policy and has quickly raised $24,000. The group hired a lawyer and plans to serve the school district shortly.