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Parents react to Unmask Georgia Students Act unveiled by Gov. Kemp

Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 4:11 PM EST
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ATLANTA (CBS46) — On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) revealed legislation to give parents an opt-out option to students wearing masks in schools.

Kemp said that roughly 45 school districts have at least one school with mask requirements.

If SB 514 passes, no school system could mandate a mask requirement without the inclusion of an opt-out option for parents against mask requirements.

“My kids will be unmasked, day one,” said Maria Diedrich, who has three children in the Atlanta Public School district.

“What have we done to our children to put them in this position of silencing them for two years, and a school board, and a superintendent thinks that’s acceptable and it’s not,” Diedrich said in an interview on Monday.

She said that districts are hiding behind data that doesn’t accurately portray the current COVID snapshot in schools.

“The trends, even though they’re going down, they’re still really high because the community is unmasked. So they need to be looking at the school incident rates,” Diedrich said.

Other parents told CBS46 that they support the mask requirements as they stand.

“Those kids needs all the protection they can get. Our teachers, too. So, it’s a mask. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s one of the simplest things we can do to protect each other,” said Beth Koobey, whose children attend Midtown High School.

Koobey stressed that until vaccination rates get higher, masks are especially important.

According to Atlanta Public Schools, 26% of students are fully vaccinated.

“I think we have rules and regulation, and scientists, and people in charge for reasons. We need guidance,” Koobey said.

Atlanta Public Schools, like many districts, have parameters in place influencing their mask policies.

At APS schools, if they secure two straight weeks where transmission levels are low or moderate, the district said they will shift to a mask-optional policy.

Governor Kemp said he believes this legislation will adequately address the ramification of a parent’s decision overruling a district’s protocol.

“It [SB 514] does allow the school system to deal with the business of running a school, but parents will have an opt-out on whether to mask their children in the classroom or not,” Kemp said, next to state Sen. Clint Dixon, who officially introduced the bill on Monday.

Atlanta Public Schools provided this statement when asked about their reaction to the new legislation.

“Atlanta Public Schools is closely monitoring the work of the Georgia General Assembly. We appreciate state leaders who have provided local school districts the flexibility to keep schools safe by implementing a multi-layered approach to COVID mitigation. We require students to wear masks under the district’s student dress code policy.”