According to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 6 out 10 Americans believe teachers and students should wear masks when they go to school. Similar numbers believe teachers and students should be required to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
As the number of coronavirus cases rises, masks have been a source of controversy in U.S. schools. Parents and politicians have been arguing about whether they should be required. Some Republican governors have banned mask mandates, while President Joe Biden threatened legal action.
The poll reflects the polarizing debate by revealing a wide partisan divide. A third of 10 Republicans favored the use of masks for teachers and students, while 8 percent of 10 Democrats voted against it. Similar splits were seen over school vaccine mandates.
Masks will be required for students and staff in some of the country's most prestigious school districts, including New York City. Budhiono Riyanto (37), of Queens will send his 7-year old son Gabriel back to school next month.
"I can understand individual choice and I can understand freedom of choice. Rivanto stated that we all need to look out for one another when it comes down to public health. "Making sure to vaccinate is the best way to protect yourself."
Others believe that children shouldn't have to wear masks.
Kim Oldfield, a rural Jessieville resident, stated that masks are not popular in her community. She is against the idea of a mandate, and believes it should be up for families to decide. Masks are now optional in her school district.
Oldfield, 70, said that America is supposed to be the land where the free are. People don't like it when the government gets into their personal lives and makes them do things they don't want.
The poll shows that parents are slightly less likely than the wider population to support masking requirements. The poll shows that 52% of parents with children in school said they support a mandate for their kids. 28% disagreed. There was a similar split on mandates for teachers.
There were also significant differences by race. About two-thirds (65%) of Black parents supported mask mandates for students and teachers, while only half (50%) of Hispanic and white parents did so.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that all teachers and students wear a universal mask this fall due to the rapid spread of the delta strain.
Tensions have flared recently in some areas where school mask requirements are enforced. Protesters opposed to mask requirements have flooded school board meetings across Maryland and California, sometimes disrupting them and forcing them to postpone.
While most states allow school districts the freedom to establish their own mask policies and some states, such as California, Illinois, and Louisiana, require masks for teachers and students across the state. Eight Republican-led states, including Tennessee, Florida, and Texas, have banned universal mask mandates in schools.
Gail Jackson, a 12-year-old grandmother from Land O' lakes, Florida worries about her grandson going to school where masks will be optional. She said that Zahkai, her grandson, wears a mask but that some of his classmates don’t.
Jackson, 74-year-old Zahkai's legal guardian, said, "I don't understand how it all will play out in the final." My prayer is that an angel will somehow pass over so these children can grow and mature without being placed on a ventilator.
School vaccine requirements are rare in comparison to mandates for masks. Some states and localities have mandated vaccines for teachers. Those who refuse to receive the vaccines must be subject to regular virus testing. Others have taken a more aggressive stance, such as Washington state which requires teachers to be immunized or risk being fired.
The first district in the United States to require vaccinations for all students was the Culver city Unified near Los Angeles last week. However, student vaccine mandates remain rare and shots for children under 12 years old are not yet approved.
According to the poll, 59% of Americans support mandatory vaccinations for teachers. Nearly half (55%) say the same for students aged 12 and above who are eligible for vaccines. Support for vaccines was lower among parents with only 42% supporting mandated vaccinations for students.
Parents who had been vaccinated were more likely than those without to support vaccine and mask requirements.
Falmouth resident Jeff Hicklin said that he supports mandated vaccines and masks for teachers and students. It's the best way for Oscar, a 7-year old boy, to be protected.
Hicklin (40), an accountant, stated that "we need to do all we can to keep schools safe and open."
Erik Pederstuen, a Wisconsin technical college instructor, has been vaccinated in Menomonie and plans to get his daughter, 9 years old, vaccinated once she is eligible. Pederstuen is a technical college instructor and doesn't believe coronavirus vaccines should become a requirement.
Pederstuen (40) said that while I am not anti-vaccine, the idea of forced vaccinations is something that I have never liked. "I believe everyone should have it, but it should be your choice."