A group of Conway parents attended the monthly Conway Board of Education meeting Tuesday to voice their frustrations with the school’s mask requirements in an attempt to reverse the decision.
The group carried hand-made signs that said things such as “no more masks,” “let your child smile” and “stand up for your parental rights” and one woman, mother of two Bethany MacKenzie, was allotted five minutes to give a speech before the board.
“I know this is a very touchy topic,” she said in the opening of the speech. “I’d like to ask the board to make a motion on a solution that I believe is a win-win for the school district as well as for the parents and their children who attend Conway schools.”
MacKenzie proposed an “exemption form” before the school board, asking them to send a notification allowing for parents to sign a form exempting them from their children wearing a mask to school. She said that teachers and staff should also be allowed to participate in the exemption process.
“Parents need to stand up for their parental rights,” she said. “Being forced to put something over [our] child’s nose/mouth is a hazard to their health and safety.”
MacKenzie went on to say that there is no data available to support a mask mandate for children being safe.
“We can all agree on one thing tonight: we all breathe oxygen,” she said. “So why would we restrict the oxygen flow from our children?”
She went on to list certain affects she believes comes from children wearing masks such as headaches, nausea, lack of concentration, dizziness, tooth decay and even psychological and behavioral issues.
“Doctors and scientists cannot fully answer or explain the health risk we are subjecting our children to,” she said. “Therefore parents, not school [officials], should be able to choose what is best for the safety and wellbeing of their children.”
MacKenzie told the board that students are experiencing social and educational problems when it comes to the mask mandates, including children seeking medical help with depression and the feeling of isolation.
“Children aren’t communicating with their teachers anymore,” she said. “Many children seem to zone out with their masks on like they’re not even in the classroom. We know the test scores have seen huge reduction since masking up last year.”
MacKenzie went on to share her own personal story with how her two children have been affected by the mask requirements.
“I asked my son after his first day of school if there was any new students in his classes,” she said. “He replied ‘I can’t tell who anyone is.’ How does this make my son feel safe if he can’t identify anyone?”
As for her daughter, MacKenzie said that she experienced health problems last year during the school’s mask mandates.
“My daughter’s experience with masking last year was very alarming,” she said. “We monitored her heart rate on an Apple Watch and she was experiencing 180 beats per minute which resulted in panic attacks. She would have to go to the nurse’s office to remove her mask to make her heart go back down to a normal heart rhythm. Wearing a mask for her was life threatening and we had to find other options for her this school year.”
MacKenzie also voiced her frustrations with the quarantine policies that school district has in place.
“In the elementary classes, we are sending healthy kids home to quarantine that are still wearing a mask, so why are we still pushing this agenda in the first place?” she said. “It’s absurd.”
She concluded her speech with one final plea to the board to reconsider their mask policy.
“Please allow our school to have our freedoms back,” she said. “Consider the exemption form. I hope this proposal can unite our school.”
There was no decision made by the board Tuesday evening. A COVID-19 update was shared where the district currently has 37 active student cases, fewer than five active staff cases, 173 student in quarantine, and fewer than five staff in quarantine. This data keeps the district in the “red” status, meaning masks will still be required.
If or when the district moves to the “yellow” status, masks then become “strongly encouraged.”