Laurel Cty parents protest mask mandate

Several parents showed up in front of the Laurel County Central Office Monday to hold up signs saying, “Honk for Freedom of Choice.” It was not, however, a pro-choice for abortion rally, but parents protesting the state’s mask mandate for everyone in the state’s public schools.

This reflects a battle raging across the state and the country. On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear voided his mask mandate after a stinging defeat in the state Supreme Court on Saturday.  His rescission of his mask mandate doesn’t apparently void a mandate put in place by the Kentucky Board of Education.

The parents were protesting, demanding their right to choose if their child wears a mask in school or not. Some parents are adamantly opposed to wearing masks in schools, alleging it interferes with the children's learning. Others want it left entirely up to the parents to decide.

Several parents called the mask mandates “unconstitutional” though none cited the portion of the Constitution, either US or state, the mandate violates. Constitutional scholars largely believe that mask mandates are not forbidden by the Constitution; that it’s a matter of laws and policies to handle.

Others claimed that House Bill 1, passed in the spring by the state’s General Assembly, should be followed. This allows individual institutions to create a plan that “meets or exceeds'' CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines. That plan can then be posted. The bill also prevents the governor from putting into effect a mandate on an emergency basis for more than 30 days. He or she needs to seek legislative approval in order to keep any mandates in place. As of Tuesday, the Governor’s mask mandate has been withdrawn, but the Board of Education's mandate stands. Public schools will continue to require masks for everyone inside the buildings.

The current mandates have been put in place by the state Department of Education which said through a spokeswoman that they were obeying a different statute and that their conduct was entirely in line with both the Constitution and the current laws.

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