CADDO PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A Caddo Parish School Board member is pushing for making masks optional, now that the governor’s statewide mask order has been dropped and the decision on whether to continue the requirement is up to local districts.

“Now is the time to give our parents the choice, the freedom to decide if they prefer for their children to wear a mask,” Dist. 9 board member Barry Rachal said in an informational packet laying out his case.

Rachal pointed to about nearly two dozen parishes around the state, including Bossier and Webster, that dropped the mandatory mask policies since the statewide order was allowed to expire last week.

Rachal cited CDC data in saying that 600 of the nation’s 55 million children have passed away from COVID-19, but according to the latest data on the CDC website, 618 children between the ages of zero to four have died from COVID-19 as of November 1. Another 1,422 children between the ages of five and 18 have also died.

“Please know that I am not minimizing the loss of any child. they are all precious in the Lords eyes,” Rachal said, adding that 15 children under the age of 18 have passed away who had Covid-19.

Rachal may have been referring to pediatric deaths in Louisiana from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), which have totaled 14 since the pandemic began. But according to the latest LDH data, a total of 18 children under the age of 18 have died from COVID-19 in Louisiana.

Still, Rachal has plenty of support for his pitch to ditch the masks requirement, including the dozens of parents who showed up at Tuesday’s school board meeting to protest the district’s decision to stick with mask requirements for now.

“You are ruining our children!” shouted one parent as she was being escorted out of the meeting after ignoring repeated warnings to stop interrupting the meeting.

“We know the truth! The truth is, y’all are liars!” yelled another.

“There was a crowd of 10,000 spectators attending the Byrd and Captain Shreve Game on Thursday, but my children on Monday morning were required to put on a mask. Please tell me, where is the fairness in this?”

While the voices of the parents that packed the meeting room to oppose the mask mandate might have been louder and angrier, there were parents who stood to support the decision to continue requiring masks.

“I heard somewhere that we’ve had zero children die in Caddo,” said one parent. “To me, that says two things: Masks are working to slow down the transmissions and defeat sickness, and secondly, masks aren’t causing any harm to the health of our children.”

“If we do the mask mandate, when we relax it, we’re going to have to go back to the really strict COVID standards for quarantines,” said Jackie Lansdale, Red River United President. “You’re going to see teachers and school employees have to go home, that is going to impact that teacher shortage.”

The school board says they will keep the mandate in place for now, but discussion on lifting it is on the agenda for the November 16 meeting.

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