POINT PLEASANT — On the heels of Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement that face masks will continue to be required in child care centers, summer camps and schools, Point Pleasant School District parents continued to urge the board of education and district leaders to contact the governor’s office and legislators to protest the mask mandate they claim is causing students psychological, physical and emotional turmoil.
Prior to the board of education’s meeting on May 24, dozens of parents and children gathered outside Ocean Road Elementary School to protest the mandate, holding and posting signs reading “Masks Off For Children: Show Their Smiles,” “Free The Smile: Stop Masking Children,” and “Unmask Our Panthers.” Several others voiced their concerns before the board. Many parents had also protested at the board’s May 10 meeting and urged the members to “stand up for their children” and write to the governor regarding the mask mandate.
The governor noted earlier this week that children under age 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccinations: “So for this younger population, we are not there yet.” He said the mandate is in accordance with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Wearing a mask in school gives me headaches, makes me dizzy and also makes it difficult to concentrate,” elementary student Juliana Scalabrini said. “I used to love going to school and now I dread it because I know how it is going to make me feel.
“Our classrooms don’t have air conditioning and they get very hot. It makes me feel like I am going to pass out. I come home from school … and take a nap. I never had to do this before. I want to love coming to school again but until we don’t have to wear masks that is not going to happen.
“Masks should be optional for those that want to continue wearing them, but we shouldn’t be forced to wear them. Please support us and tell Gov. Murphy that masks in schools should be optional. Our academic, physical and emotional health depends on it.”
New Jersey will allow fully vaccinated people to go without wearing masks indoors in public; and six-foot social-distancing requirements for stores, restaurants, gyms and other venues also will be lifted, Gov. Murphy announced Monday, pointing to improving pandemic metrics.
However, businesses and other indoor venues may continue, if they choose, to require social distancing and masks for employees, customers or guests. Gov. Murphy said that unvaccinated people are still encouraged to social distance and wear masks, and be truthful about their vaccination status.
Masks will also continue to be required in health care settings, jails, homeless shelters and while traveling on airplanes, buses and trains and in airports, bus and train stations. In addition, masks will continue to be required in state offices open to the public, such as motor vehicle control offices, and worksites such as warehouses and factories.
The actions are a reversal of the governor’s stance last week, when he stated that New Jersey would keep the indoor mandate in place until the state reaches a 70 percent vaccination rate for those 16 and older.
“We just want to know that we are being heard. We want you to stand up for us. At the last meeting the onus was all put on us and you felt that your hands were tied … your hands are only tied to the extent that you allow that to be done,” parent Heather Kertman told the board.
“We are doing every single thing. We have been emailing legislators, we have been making phone calls … so we are asking you to stand up because … you are in a position to help support our children and you should want to stand up. Please fight with us. Don’t put the onus all on us.”
“I will say after the last meeting I did go home and I did write letters to the governor and to all our legislators,” Board President Joan Speroni told the audience.
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