SABINE PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Parents opposing mask mandates for students in Sabine Parish schools showed up at a specially scheduled school board meeting Monday afternoon to express their objections and demand exemptions to the policy.
Sabine Parish School Board Superintendent Dr. Ebarb says the district intends to follow the law when it comes to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ mask mandate as they reopen schools for Fall 2021.
“The governor enacted mask mandate for the health and safety of our employees and students and there are people on both sides of this argument. However, we don’t have a choice when it’s an Executive Order signed by the governor,” Dr. Ebarb said Sunday.
Members of “Unmask our Kids Sabine Parish,” which describes itself as a grass-roots parent group that has grown to more than 1100 members, submitted forms that have been distributed to parents requesting exemptions from the mask policy for students based on either philosophical or religious objections.
“Unmask our Kids” founder Kresha Matkin, who says she is a concerned mother of three, presented the concerns of the growing organization to the Sabine Parish School Board members and school personnel in attendance.
“Today was mostly about just being heard. A lot of us feel like the government is overreaching ad trying to co-parent with us. We know what’s best for our children, we just want the right as parents to have that,” Matkin said. “We’re not out to attack our board members, we understand in some cases their hands are tied. We just want clear open communication and we also want the right to voice that we have the right to parent our children.”
During the meeting, only 30 people were allowed inside, including the school board. Other parents stood outside waiting to hear from school board members.
“I believe that this needs to be heard, that the facts actually need to be looked at and we need to drop the politics. We need to put these children first,” John Faircloth said.
“It’s not so much about the virus and the mask. It’s more of basically being pushed around. If they can make us wear a mask, next it’s going to be making us get the vaccination,” Brenton Riggs said.
Superintendent Sara Ebarb said she understands the parents’ concerns but must do what is best for the students, faculty, and staff.
“We have people on the other side of this issue who feel a lot more comfortable with other people wearing a mask because of the spread of covid. They feel like their children are safer with people wearing masks, some of our employees feel safer,” Ebarb said.
She said two of her biggest concerns are the kids’ safety, as more children are being affected by the delta variant of the virus and getting more sick. But there is also the risk of getting into legal trouble if the district does not comply.
“We follow the policy we follow the guidelines if we follow the law. If we don’t, we could be subject to suit. A lot of times district lawsuits are about procedures,” Ebarb said.
Matkin asked the school board for a special meeting, allowing all of the voices from parents to be heard and for questions to be answered.
The first day of school for Sabine Parish students is Tuesday, Aug. 10.
The board voted unanimously for her request for a special meeting. They will meet at Many High School on August 26 at 5:30 pm. Parents interested in addressing the board will be required to complete a card upon entry.