California high school students stage mass walkout over district mask mandate

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Hundreds of students at a Northern California high school walked out of class on Tuesday afternoon to protest their district’s mask mandate that was kept in place despite an easing of state-wide restrictions. State.

Photos and video shared with Fox News show a crowd of maskless students gathered outside Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, California.

Jennifer Yoder, an Oak Ridge parent and administrator of the “Eldorado Hills Republicans” Facebook page, told Fox News that she and other parents sent their children to school without masks.

“It was a local affair between the parents and then the kids working together to get everyone on board,” Yoder told Fox News. She said children who arrived in class without masks were sent away.

“It just grew and grew. And then they finally got up and left those classrooms and ran outside and started their protest,” Yoder said.

Later Tuesday, the El Dorado Union School District sent a letter notifying parents that it would be changing its masking enforcement protocols.

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“Enforcement of masking will be done by educating students and asking them to mask up but no further class exclusion action will be taken,” the district said. “Going forward, students will not be physically removed from the classroom or face disciplinary action to prevent further learning loss through exclusion.”

The district, which could not be reached for further details, said in its letter that it was bound by policy established by Sacramento and the California Department of Public Health.

Tuesday’s mass walkout came a day after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom delayed a closely watched decision on lifting California’s school mask mandate, even as other Democratic governors across the country ditched them in recent weeks. .

California Governor Gavin Newsom makes an appearance after the polls close in the recall election, at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, California, U.S. September 14, 2021.
(REUTERS/Fred Greaves)

While many Californians will be able to remove masks in most indoor settings starting Tuesday, school children and teachers will have to wait. Newsom had flagged Monday as the day to watch for a review regarding schools, then sent the state’s top health official to deliver the message of a delay.

“The message today, which I hope is clear, is that today there are no changes,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement. online ad. Ghaly said his department would reevaluate on Feb. 28 if the rule should change.

Meanwhile, California has begun lifting its mask mandate for most indoor settings for vaccinated people. From Tuesday, unvaccinated people will still be required to wear masks indoors, and everyone – vaccinated or not – will be required to wear masks in high-risk settings like public transport and nursing homes. Local governments may maintain their own indoor mask requirements.

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Ghaly said Monday that the state is not yet ready to make masks optional in schools even though COVID-19 cases in California have dropped more than 75% since mid-January. He declined to answer repeated questions about the role played by teachers’ unions in Monday’s decision. He also declined to say whether requirements for lifting school masks would be tied to any specific measures.

FILE: Kindergarten children wear masks while listening to their teacher amid the COVID-19 pandemic at Washington Elementary School on January 12, 2022 in Lynwood, California.

FILE: Kindergarten children wear masks while listening to their teacher amid the COVID-19 pandemic at Washington Elementary School on January 12, 2022 in Lynwood, California.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, file)

California has had some of the strictest mask and vaccination requirements in the country, with Newsom announcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate last October for all public and private school children.

Parental frustration prompted some officials to make their own decisions. In a Sacramento suburb, the Roseville Joint Union High School District school board openly defied the state’s mandate last week with a unanimous vote to launch a “mask optional” policy.

In the Corona Norco Unified School District in Riverside County, where students and parents recently protested the school mask mandate, the district said it has set up a supervised outdoor space where students who refuse to wear a mask can spend the day protesting or doing their homework.

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El Dorado Hills is about 30 miles northeast of Sacramento.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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