Covid US: 48% of parents think all children should have to wear masks at school

American parents are split on whether their children should be wearing masks in schools. 

Two out of every five parents oppose all masks in schools, no matter the child’s vaccination status. 

Under half of U.S. K-12 parents – 48 percent – want all students masked in the classroom, according to new survey from Gallup. 

A small number – 11 percent – say mandates should only apply to unvaccinated students.

Similarly, 48 percent of parents want all teachers and staff masked, while 38 percent want no teachers masked and 13 percent want mandates only for unvaccinated teachers.

Mask requirements are part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for school reopening, along with physical distancing, ventilation, quarantines for sick students, and regular COVID-19 testing.

The polling reflects a sharp divide in parent perceptions of safety as schools reopen. According to Gallup, the vast majority of K-12 students are returning to in-person learning – some after over a year of remote school.

About half of K-12 parents want all children to wear masks at school, according to Gallup polling. 41 percent want no students wearing masks and 11 percent want only the unvaccinated to mask up

About half of K-12 parents want all children to wear masks at school, according to Gallup polling. 41 percent want no students wearing masks and 11 percent want only the unvaccinated to mask up

As K-12 schools across the country reopen for the fall 2021 semester, mask mandates have become a divisive issue.

Tuesday morning, Pennsylvania became the latest state to require masks inside all public K-12 schools – joining states like New York and California.

Meanwhile, leaders in Florida, Texas, and other conservative-led states have banned local and school mask requirements. 

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In Florida, the debate over mask mandates has grown particularly heated, as Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration strips funding from districts that institute mask requirements.

DeSantis stripped funding even though a Florida state judge ruled DeSantis’ mandate ban unconstitutional. The governor promised to appeal the ruling, expecting that it will be overturned. 

Meanwhile, President Biden’s administration is investigating five state bans, as Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona says that they may constitute civil rights violations for students with disabilities.

New polling from Gallup reinforces the extent to which parents are divided on this safety issue.

Gallup found that more K-12 parents support mask mandates than wanting them banned – but mandate supporters constitute just half of the surveyed parents.

This poll was conducted during the week of August 16 to 22, amid the Delta variant surge. About 700 parents of K-12 students responded to online surveys about their Covid safety priorities.

These parents are part of the Gallup Panel, recruited specifically by the company to represent the national demographics of the U.S.

According to Gallup’s poll, 48 percent of K-12 parents want all students masked. A slightly smaller number – 41 percent – want no students masked.

The remaining parents – 11 percent – say that only unvaccinated students should be required to mask up.

These parents have similar views toward mask requirements for teachers and staff – 48 percent say all teachers and staff should be masked, while 38 percent say that no staff should be masked.

Finally, 13 percent of parents say that only unvaccinated teachers and staff must face mask requirements.

The CDC recommends mask requirements in schools for all students, teachers, and staff – both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The only exception to the agency’s guidance is outdoor activities. The CDC doesn’t recommend masking outdoors, as Covid transmission is rare in this environment.

In addition to indoor masking, the CDC recommends physical distancing in classrooms (three feet between students), ventilation improvements to school buildings, students staying home when they show symptoms, and regular Covid testing.

The CDC also notes that vaccination is the most effective protection against Covid. The agency recommends vaccination for all teachers, staff, and students over age 12.

Vaccination rates in the youngest segment of that eligibility group are lower than those in older teens and young adults.

Just 47 percent of parents with children ages 12 to 15 say that their child has been vaccinated, compared to 60 percent of parents with children ages 16 to 18, Gallup found.

While many school districts are seeking to promote student vaccination this fall, Gallup’s data suggest that many families are still hesitant.

The agency’s late August poll found that 33 percent of parents with kids in the 16 to 18 range say that they don’t plan to seek vaccination for those children.

For parents with kids in the 12 to 15 age range, that number is 42 percent planning not to seek vaccination.

Despite divides over Covid safety measures, the vast majority of parents agree that kids need to be back in classrooms.

According to Gallup, 77 percent of K-12 parents say that they expect their children will ‘return to a pre-pandemic school schedule’ in the 2021-2022 school year.

This finding aligns with other polling, such as a July 2021 survey from the RAND Corporation that found 89 percent of parents planned to send their children to in-person school in fall 2021.

Experts say that schools can safely provide children with such pre-pandemic schedules if they maintain key safety measures, like those recommended by the CDC.

But schools that do not maintain masking, distancing, ventilation, and other measures may be particularly vulnerable to outbreaks – made increasingly dangerous by the Delta variant. 



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