Coronavirus News: Debate over masks in the classroom gets heated across Long Island

COVID-19 News and Information
MASSAPEQUA, Nassau County (WABC) -- The school mask debate has perhaps been most heated in districts across Long Island and parents on both sides of the battle are speaking out.

It looked like back to school night in Massapequa, but parents there were signing petitions to let the school district know they want to be able to decide whether their child wears a mask in school.

They held a parade recently too through the streets of Massapequa. The issue first surfaced back in June.

Parents were concerned that not being able to breathe in stifling, hot classrooms was more of a threat to their children than COVID.

The infection rate was low at that point.

The issue morphed when then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in early August the state would leave decisions on mask wearing in schools up to individual school districts.

Parents started to make their voices heard at school board meetings across Long Island.

Some of them said wearing masks all day is causing physical and mental health issues for their children.

Others said it's necessary.

"Scientifically, requiring masks to be worn inside makes sense right now," one parent said.

Then less than three weeks after Cuomo's announcement, Gov. Kathy Hochul, on her first day in office said:

"I'm immediately directing the New York State Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools."

Long Island School Board meetings were suddenly not so civil. Some people said they feel their parental rights are being trampled.

The issue keeps expanding.

Last week six students at Islip Middle School showed up to their first day of school without masks. They were taken out of their classrooms and their parents had to pick them up.

That same week the Locust Valley School board voted to retain a law firm to fight the state's universal mask mandate for schools.

Dr. Bruce Farber with Northwell Health says masks are safe for children and are critical in assuring schools can stay open.

"We're going to have a lot of trouble and going to need a lot of luck to get through this school year without multiple closings and localized outbreaks and the last thing we want to do is make that worse by removing a simple and safe measure although somewhat inconvenient which is masks," Farber said.

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