Manhasset parents call for repeal of mask mandate in schools

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Manhasset parents call for repeal of mask mandate in schools
Manhasset School District parents called for the repeal of masks during last week's public meeting. (Photo by Sam Petruccelli)

BY MADELINE ARMSTRONG

Parents in the Manhasset school district called on officials to repeal the state-enforced mask mandate.

Last week, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed an executive order to permit school districts to choose whether they want to enforce a mask mandate for their students, although the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association contends he has no legal authority to do so.

During the public comment portion of a Board of Education meeting last Thursday, a group of parents rallied to protest the mask mandate in the Manhasset schools. One parent said that “masks do nothing.” A group of men and women followed one by one, pleading for the district to do something about the mask mandate.

“I do not believe they have the right to tell us what to do with our children,” said one woman. The room was crowded with parents calling for change and saying that they would not stop “fighting for their children.”

“Schools remain one of the safest places to be,” said acting Superintendent Gaurav Passi. The  decision on whether the school district will continue to mandate masks falls on the commissioner of education, who has decided that districts will continue to require universal masking

After the parents aired their concerns, Steven Miller, a student at Manhasset secondary school, changed the tone, saying he believed the school was not doing enough to keep students safe. He claimed that students in his classes did not wear masks and they did not receive any reprimand. “The current policies are put in place to protect the children,” Miller said. “To what extent is the school really enforcing the policies that they have?”

The response from the school board was that it is up to the individual teacher to enforce mask-wearing.

The rest of the meeting proceeded with less tension.  Seven students received the capstone diploma for the “research, analysis [and] evidence-based” projects that the students completed as part of their course work, according to Jeremy Berman, a social studies teacher at the Manhasset Secondary School.

These projects included portrayals of female friendships in popular culture, magicians gaining the confidence of audiences, internet speed and global inequality. “We’ve certainly learned just as much from their incredible projects as they’ve learned from us,” Berman said.

Joy-Anne D’Anca, the district’s director of student counseling services, gave a presentation on the K-12 social-emotional learning program. Social-emotional learning is a practice that integrates social and emotional skills into a school curriculum.

“One of the things we were concerned about returning to school was the social and emotional well-being of students,” D’Anca said. The program will focus on resocialization, awareness of psychological responses and the reestablishment of coping skills. “Every life has a story,” D’Anca said. “It is the goal to do the work and have the passion to read that story.”

D’Anca’s goal is to help students reintegrate into society and maintain social and emotional skills necessary for socialization. She wants to help students with the individual challenges they may have and be aware of each student’s individual story, so that she may help them cope with and appreciate their differences. “The differences you have can become your greatest superpower,” D’Anca said.

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