Hundreds of California high school students stage walkout over mask mandate
Hundreds of students at a high school in northern California walked out of class on Tuesday afternoon to protest their district’s mask mandate that has been kept in place despite a statewide relaxation of restrictions.
Students of Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, California, are frustrated with their district's strict mask mandate. Mask mandates are so strict that students without masks are dismissed from class, creating frustration among them as well as parents.
Photos and a video shared with Fox News show a group of maskless students assembled outside Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, California.
Jennifer Yoder, an Oak Ridge parent and an administrator of the Facebook page 'Eldorado Hills Republicans', told Fox News that she and other parents sent their kids to school without masks.
"This was a homegrown thing between the parents and then the kids working together to get everyone on board," Yoder said. She said the kids who arrived at class without wearing face masks were dismissed. "It just kept growing and growing. And then they eventually just got up and left those classrooms and ran outside and started their protest," Yoder said.
Later on Tuesday, the El Dorado Union High School District sent out a letter notifying parents that it would be changing its mask enforcement protocols.
"The enforcement of masking will be done by educating students and asking them to mask but no further actions of exclusion from class will be taken," the district said. "Moving forward students will not be physically removed from the classroom or receive a discipline consequence to prevent further exclusionary learning loss."
The district said in its letter that it was bound by policy set by Sacramento and the California Department of Public Health. Tuesday’s mass walkout came a day after Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom delayed a closely watched decision on lifting California's school mask mandate, even as other Democratic governors around the country have dropped them in recent weeks.
While many Californians will now be able to remove masks in most indoor settings starting Tuesday, schoolchildren and teachers will have to wait.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr Mark Ghaly said in an online announcement, "The message today, which I hope is clear, is today a change isn't being made, " Ghaly said that his department will reassess on February 28 whether the rule should change.
Meanwhile, California has begun lifting its mask mandate for most indoor settings for vaccinated people. As of Tuesday, unvaccinated people will still be required to wear masks indoors, and everyone, vaccinated or not, will have to wear masks in higher-risk settings like public transit and nursing homes. Local governments can continue their own indoor mask requirements.
California has had some of the nation’s strictest mask and vaccination requirements, with Newsom announcing a Covid vaccine mandate for all public and private school children last October.
This is not the first time that students are frustrated. The frustration among parents has prompted some officials to make their own decisions. In a suburb of Sacramento, the Roseville Joint Union High School District school board openly defied the state mandate last week with a unanimous vote to start a "mask optional" policy.