Republicans push bills to ban Michigan school mask warrants

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September 29: Whitmer signs $ 70 billion budget in Michigan: what survived, prospered and died
September 22: Michigan GOP’s attempt to block mask rules on a budget appears dead on arrival
September 17: In Michigan schools, “mask optional” usually means no masks

LANSING – A tense clash over school masking and COVID-19 testing policies continued in the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday, where a Republican-led Senate panel brought forward bills to ban local warrants after a Democratic lawmaker came out of frustration.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has encouraged school masking and will likely veto the legislation if it makes it to her office, but Senate Education Committee chair Lana Theis said she wanted to show the governor “which worries the citizens of Michigan”.

Parents opposed to COVID-19 masks, tests and vaccines testified in favor of the four-bill package led by Theis, R-Brighton, who argued that various security mandates had contributed to “high anxiety and suicidal tendencies ”in Kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

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“Access to free public education is a right guaranteed in our state’s constitution, and a child should never be denied access to his or her constitutional rights over government policy,” Theis said before the projects of law are advanced in a vote of 4 to 1.

Democratic Senator Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, did not vote on the bills Tuesday after leaving the committee hearing during a heated exchange between two colleagues.

In a text message to Bridge Michigan, Geiss quoted “pure frustration with people working in government who lash out against the government, hysterically tackle unrelated topics and are utterly hypocritical when it comes to addressing issues. public health strategies during a highly contagious airborne virus when the entire population of our primary schools cannot be vaccinated. ”

“This is sheer madness,” Geiss added, calling the hearing a “farce”.

The legislation, which now heads for the full Michigan Senate, is expected to:

  • Prohibit state or local health departments from passing emergency orders to mandate vaccines, face masks or tests in Michigan schools
  • Require districts with mask mandates to allow parents or 18-year-old students to request a waiver for any reason. As it is written, the school would not even need to approve the waiver. At the request of a parent, the borough could not require that a student wear a mask.
  • Prohibit districts from requiring tests for asymptomatic students
  • Prohibit school districts from “discriminating” against students who have not been vaccinated by treating them differently from vaccinated students, for example by requiring them to wear face masks.
  • Prohibit school districts from requiring students to receive an “emergency use authorization” vaccine to go to school, take a bus, or participate in sports or other extracurricular activities. In August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed people 16 and older to use the Pfizer vaccine, but all available vaccines are still under emergency status for people ages 12 to 15.
  • Prohibit districts from requiring masks or COVID-19 tests to attend school board meetings

As of early September, 60% of Michigan students are required to hide inside school buildings, either through warrants issued by individual school districts or local health departments.

Eight of the state’s nine most populous counties require face masks in school buildings. Most masks are compulsory for all students. Some only require face covers for elementary school students, who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. All Michigan students must wear masks on school buses.

But “to my knowledge, no school in the state has attempted or even officially discussed the requirement of vaccines for their students,” said Peter Spadafore of the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators, which opposes the plans. of law.

“We believe that (the bills) are bad policy in that they severely limit the ability of a local school district to protect the safety and well-being of their staff and students,” said Spadafore.

The Whitmer administration has issued no statewide orders for the new school year, but recommended local masking and quarantine rules to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Supporters say the mask warrants will help schools avoid closures and a return to distance learning, but town hall meetings on local policies have been marked by intense opposition from some parents, including resentment that has leads at least one school board president to resign.

Last week in Washtenaw County, unmasked pupils made their way to Manchester High School after encouragement from their parents.

Nancy Rotarius from Dansville attended Tuesday’s Senate committee meeting with her 13-year-old son Alan, a college student who wore a “we refuse to be muzzled” t-shirt.

Rotarius told Bridge Michigan she made a “difficult decision” to take her son out of the sport last year because she did not want him to submit to statewide testing rules , fearing that he would find himself quarantined and out of school.

Now Ingham County has demanded the masking, and Rotarius said she was concerned about the “emotional toll” that pandemic learning will continue to have on her college son.

“He’s my son, and I should be given the option to make the choice for him both for vaccinations and for masking,” she said. “I got it. I’m so tired as a mom, and I know my son is tired.


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