The Orland Unified School District mailed a letter last week regarding a mask mandate in schools to the California Department of Public Health, governor and state superintendent of public instruction. 

“On behalf of the Orland Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees, I am writing today to urge your department to change its guidance mandating masks for students and staff in public schools,” said Superintendent Dwayne Newman in the letter. 

The letter said that there are a number of reasons the district believes allowing students and staff to not wear masks is “the best and safest course of action” with the main reason being the emotional impact the pandemic has had on the students.

“It is axiomatic in schools, that following traumatic events, returning to normal routines quickly is necessary and most beneficial for the students’ emotional health,” Newman said in the letter. “We are doing everything possible to help support students’ physical and psychological healing in planning for a ‘normal’ start to the upcoming school year. Continuing to mandate masks creates a constant reminder of the fear and uncertainty they experienced during the peak of the pandemic.”

According to the letter, they were able to measure the impacts of the physical safety practices and could not quantify how those measures affected students’ emotional health. 

“It is now clear that sufficient data exists to say, with some certainty, that the negative emotional influences of continually reminding students of the pandemic is becoming nearly as detrimental as the physical dangers associated with a COVID-19 infection,” Newman said in the letter. “In short, the skyrocketing rates of suicidal ideation and students seeking counseling call for a different approach.”

The letter stated that with the numbers of vaccinated individuals climbing and “because young children are not as susceptible to infection or transmission, it seems counterintuitive to require ongoing masking.”

“For this and the other reasons detailed above, we respectfully request that you change the guidance and allow our students and staff to be mask-free as much as possible in our schools,” Newman said in the letter.

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