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Governor introduces bill allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates

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Governor introduces bill allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates

Gov. Brian Kemp introduced a bill on Monday, Feb. 14, that would allow parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Atlanta, GA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp introduced the “Unmask Georgia Students Act” on Monday that would allow parents to decide whether their kids will wear masks in school.

Kemp said he, and bill sponsor Sen. Clint Dixon, were excited to ensure parents have the final say in whether their children should wear a mask in the classroom.

“We’ve been in this pandemic for well over two years now, going into our third year, we’ve got to continue to move back to more normal operations,” Kemp said. “This policy will read in the law that parents have an opt-out, so it does allow the school system to continue to deal with the business of running the school. The parents will have the opt-out on whether to mask their children in the classroom or not.”

If a school district already has a mask mandate in place, the legislation would require the school system to give parents the option to opt their child out of the mandate.

He added that about 50 school systems that have mask mandates, which would include City Schools of Decatur. Kemp is looking forward to the policy debate at the General Assembly.

An early version of the bill states that students cannot suffer any adverse disciplinary or academic consequences as a result of a parent opting them out of a mask mandate.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to worry about the punishment, but it states clearly that the child can’t be punished or have retribution because they’re not being masked. It leaves that say-so to the parents,” Kemp said. “We’re trying to do the right thing for our parents and for our children, and it’s past time to do this.”

He added that parents would still be able to send their kids to school wearing a mask.

“This isn’t saying that parents can’t make the decision to mask their kids,” Kemp said. “It’s just giving parents and opt out for those children that have parents, or the kids themselves, that are tired of wearing a mask, that are tired of the hypocrisy that we’re seeing in schools across the state.”

Kemp described that hypocrisy as being that some school systems have mask mandates, but allow visitors to enter school buildings without masks.

“Parents are beyond frustrated, especially with young children in the classroom,” Kemp said. “We should trust the parents, their medical providers, with the health of our children at this point in the pandemic.”

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