“Throughout this pandemic, my north star for decisions about our schools has been to do what is best for our students. We know that students’ mental, physical, behavioral, social, and emotional health is best served when they can be in schools for full-time, in-person instruction,” said Governor Brown. “The Delta variant puts this goal at risk. It puts our children’s health and lives at risk. But, by again taking simple and effective precautions, we can still return our children to classrooms full-time this fall.”
While most Oregon school districts are moving forward with health and safety plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the upcoming school year, the governor issued the letter in response to troubling statements and actions from local school leaders indicating they would ignore state law. Several school boards have passed or are considering resolutions opposing Oregon’s K-12 indoor mask requirements. In one school district, a superintendent encouraged parents to make false claims on behalf of their children by requesting mask exemptions under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The governor called on districts to reject taking actions that defy state and federal laws, and to take action to protect students’ health and safety instead.
Governor Brown continued: “Because that’s the thing about masks: they don’t just protect you, they protect everyone around you. Wearing a mask is an act of kindness. By wearing masks, we are teaching our children that they can protect each other in the classroom. That we can all work together to keep each other safe. When I visited classrooms this spring, I saw children who were overjoyed to be with their friends and teachers again. For them, safety protocols were not a burden but a benefit, giving them a reprieve from virtual classrooms and isolation from their peers.
“I have heard much about personal freedom when it comes to masks in school board meetings and on social media. I have not heard as much said about personal responsibility. As leaders, we have a great responsibility to our students and their futures. One of the sacred, fundamental responsibilities of a school district and its leaders is to keep the children in their care safe. It is up to us to make clear-eyed decisions based on science and fact. Flouting mask requirements will put everything we have worked towards in the last year at risk. Without the universal wearing of masks in our schools, the Delta variant will spread.”
As with Oregon’s previous K-12 mask requirements, the current indoor mask requirement can be enforced by Oregon OSHA under state law.
Governor Brown’s full letter to school leaders is available here.