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Kentucky House passes mask optional measure

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Legislation providing parents the right to opt their students out from mask mandates in Kentucky’s school and child care settings passed the House floor. HB 51, sponsored by Representative Lynn Bechler, gives parents the option to send their children to school with or without facial coverings at all levels of education—from child care centers and public K-12 schools to higher education institutions.

“Nothing is more local than empowering to moms and dads,” said Bechler, of Crittenden. “HB 51 returns responsibility to parents and empowers them to decide whether or not their children wear a mask in school settings. The legislation also addresses the true issue at hand, clearly stating that no one can put a medical device or complete a medical procedure on a child without parental consent.”

Bechler defended his policy and highlighted the overhauled guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which loosened its broad mask mandates on Feb. 25, including in most school settings.

“It’s a well-known fact a one size fits all approach does not work. The data shows us children are least likely to catch, spread or suffer from Covid-19, and keeping them masked has had little to no effect these last few years,” said Bechler.

Bechler stressed that people communicate with more than just voice, and that facial expression are necessary to understand what the person speaking is trying to get across. He highlighted the many unintended consequences of the pandemic, noting the increased number of speech delays in kids and the significant learning loss. In 2019, third-grade K-Prep proficiency reading scores sat at 52.7 percent. The 2021 proficiency scores fell to 29.8 percent.

“Giving local control is ultimately about giving people a choice in what impacts them the most,” added Bechler. “I can’t think of a greater example of this than allowing parents to choose whether or not to mask a child. Parents can make their own informed decision when it comes to this, and college students should be able to do the same. I look forward to seeing all the smiles on children’s faces.”

HB 51 additionally creates safeguards for child care centers. The legislation clearly states that their license cannot be revoked for refusing to require masks, and they cannot be penalized nor fined by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The legislation heads to the Senate for consideration. To view the full measure, visit legislature.ky.gov

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