I would like to share with you some events that have taken place with my three daughters since the beginning of this school year in regards to them wearing masks while at school.
The first incident was with my 11 year-old middle daughter. After the first full day of school she came home and told me that she had a headache and her throat was starting to hurt. As the days went on her throat got progressively worse, and she wasn’t able to swallow anymore without severe pain. I called her pediatrician and she was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in her throat. I told her pediatrician that she has never experienced anything like this before and it started when she had to wear a mask at school. Her pediatrician told me it is possibly due to her having to wear a mask and that she cannot rule out that it is because of the mask. She prescribed her an antibiotic to take for 10 days.
During this time my daughter was also complaining that her class was only getting 2 mask breaks a day. I contacted her teacher and told him that this is unacceptable and demanded more mask breaks for the kids in his class. He agreed and the students get quite a few throughout the day now. Once my daughter started getting more mask breaks her throat started hurting less, so I took it a step further and put a 504 Plan into place for my daughter that allows for her to take her mask off whenever she wants, and now her throat doesn’t bother her anymore. She still gets headaches daily, as does my oldest daughter, but having significantly less time wearing her mask has resulted in her throat improving.
The next incident occurred with my 15 year-old oldest daughter. On 9/28/20 she came home from school and told me she was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. I asked her when these symptoms started and she told me during gym class that morning. She told me that her class had gym inside that day, and that the substitute required that they all wear a mask, which was the first time they were required to wear a mask while in gym. My daughter told me that once the exercises for the class began, she immediately experienced difficulty breathing and felt like she was going to pass out, and told the teacher that she could not breathe and felt like she was going to faint. He told her to keep her mask on and keep going. Other students then began telling the teacher that they could not breathe and asked to take their masks off, and pointed out that they were spaced apart more than 6 feet. The gym substitute denied their requests and told them to keep their masks on and continue participating. The students were eventually given one mask break that lasted approximately 5-10 minutes. My daughter was having such difficulty breathing and such severe chest pains that she demanded she be given a bathroom break after her request was initially denied by the teacher. My daughter told me that all the students in the class were having chest pains and difficulty breathing by the end of the class, and that herself and many of the other students experienced chest pains and difficulty breathing for the remainder of the day.
Upon hearing all of this I immediately emailed the school principal and superintendent and told them that my daughter has asthma and is still experiencing chest pains and difficulty breathing from having to wear a mask in gym class hours ago. I demanded that my asthmatic child be excluded from participating in gym if she is going to be required to wear a mask, and said that regardless of school policy, they are not going to kill my child. The next day I got a call from the school principal and he told me that all students will be required to wear a mask during gym class when inside. He acknowledged my concern that my child can literally die from wearing a mask while exercising, but reiterated that all students will still be required to wear a mask while participating in gym. He then asked for documentation of my daughters asthma diagnosis, simply to keep on file in the health department, and not to excuse her from participating in gym. My daughter is a rule follower and I am completely scared to death that she is going to drop dead because it’s more important to her that she does what she is told than listening to her own body.
And then yesterday, with this same daughter, she came to me before leaving for school and told me that her throat felt tight and swollen, and was upset that she had to wear a mask all day because she was already having a hard time breathing. I suggested that she stay home and participate in distance learning for the day so that she wouldn’t have to wear a mask, but she didn’t take my suggestion because she prefers in-person learning. When she came home from school her throat was even tighter and more swollen, and she said her mask aggravated her throat all day and expressed how “sick” of wearing masks she is because they are hurting her physically.
Finally, my 4 year-old youngest daughter has an IEP due to speech and cognitive delays. She was enrolled in the special needs pre-K program at our elementary school and was set to begin in person learning this year. When I learned that all staff will be required to wear a mask, I opted to have her participate in distance learning because being around adults all day that have their mouths covered would inhibit her ability to see their mouths and hear their words properly, and would setback the progress she has recently made with her speech. I opted to have her engage in once-weekly intervention at the school that lasts for half an hour because she loves school. When the CT Office of Early Childhood announced Memo #29 that requires all children aged 3 and older are required to wear a mask in preschool and childcare settings, I emailed her principal and said that the school superintendent has already told me via email that my child is exempt from wearing a mask because she has an IEP, and asked her to confirm with me that my daughter will be exempt from wearing a mask. Her principal responded that my daughter will be required to wear a mask in the building any time she is not in the actual classroom, which directly contradicts the answer I was given by the superintendent as well as the guidelines set forth by the OEC. So now, my special needs, speech delayed child has to wear a mask even though I was told by the superintendent she would not have to and the OEC guidelines state she does not have to. She does not have the cognitive ability or language to tell her teacher or myself if she cannot breathe or is experience an adverse reaction to wearing a mask, and she does not have the physical ability to remove her mask herself if there was something physically or emotionally wrong. Her school is not following the guidelines and I’m afraid she will suffer without me even knowing because of her speech and cognitive limitations.
I have contacted my children’s pediatrician to request mask exemptions for all three of my children for the aforementioned reasons, and I was told by a staff member that “we are not giving mask exemptions to any child for any reason whatsoever.” I should not have to have the fears I have for my children, and I certainly should not have to worry that at least one of them is going to die because the school’s own policy is more important to them than my child’s safety.