Teachers union says Long Island school district not enforcing COVID mask mandate

BOHEMIA, Long Island (WABC) -- A teachers union on Long Island says its school district is not enforcing the COVID-19 mask mandate among students.

The allegations are being made by the Connetquot Teachers Association, which operates within the Connetquot School District.

"Some don't wear them all, some wear them below the chin, some wear them below the nose," Teachers Association President Tony Felicio Jr. said of the students. "But it's increasing."

Felicio Jr. said the union has been demanding throughout the past few months that the Connetquot School District and the school board better enforce the wearing of masks among students and send a stronger message to the school community that the wearing of masks will be enforced.

"The message has been made," he said. "Teachers know it, that nothing is going to happen, OK, if a kid just decides not to wear his mask appropriately."

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Connetquot High School school psychologist Dr. Brad Lindell was diagnosed with COVID this week, and he believes he contracted it from being in the school.

"The only environment that I was in where masks were not being worn by many, many individuals was in the school environment," he said.

Lindell said he is disappointed that he has been following all safety protocols inside the school building and that students are not being required to do the same.

"If there are no consequences for a mandate, it's only human nature that if it's uncomfortable, it's not going to be followed," he said.

Felicio Jr. said he believes the school district is caving to anti-mask parents and anti-mask school board members.

He said at the beginning of the school year, the schools made repeated announcements to students that they needed to wear their masks correctly.

"All of a sudden, the announcements just stopped," he said.

The Connetquot School District responded to Eyewitness News with the following statement:

"Throughout the pandemic, the district has worked to enforce all state mandates within an educational setting. We have followed directives from health officials and communicated those guidelines consistently with students, teachers, staff and the community. Our building administrators ensure these protocols are in place on a daily basis in order to support the wellbeing of our schools."

Connetquot School Board President Lee Kennedy told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne that the entire issue is political.

"As the governing body of a school district, the Board's role is to uphold the policies put in place by state and local officials," the board said in a prepared statement. "In that capacity, we have adopted and mandated all COVID health and safety measures within our schools. While individual Board members are entitled to their personal views, they do not impact the way in which the Board or district operates, and this includes regulations on school masking."

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Thursday that she has been made aware that some school districts on Long Island are not enforcing the mask mandate.

"It is very disappointing," she said. "We are looking at our options."

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