As was the case for so many parents, my 14-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son went back to school yesterday. Where they might differ from most children is that I’ve written to their schools to ask that they be exempt from wearing masks in the classroom.
© Toby Melville/Reuters
do children have to wear masks in school? – Toby Melville/Reuters
I saw the measure to close schools as a disproportionate mitigation and I feel the same about reopening them with children forced to wear face coverings.
You know how people sometimes have a problem with a tag in a garment that they have to cut off? My son has sensory issues like that, but with things on his face. He’s never used napkins and hasn’t used tissues all his life. So wearing masks is not a great thing for him. I also have a nephew with autism, and I feel for those people who haven’t been thought of.
It’s been heralded as an easy thing, a low cost measure – it’s just a piece of cloth. But while masks are uncomfortable for most of us, for people with sensory issues they’re really terrible and miserable. When I asked my son what he thought about the new guidelines he replied, ‘If it’s a choice between more home learning and wearing masks in class, then it’s a choice between two equally bad options.”
On his first day in his new sixth-form in September, he was chased down the corridor by the head of maths and shouted at for not wearing a mask. After that he asked me write in with an exemption request.
The school did accept it although they first said that we need medical proof, but it’s no different for children than it is for adults – you don’t need to show anyone a GP’s certificate, so the school accepted that. I also wrote to them last week to say he would need to be exempt from wearing one in class from this week.
But that still leaves the significant problem of peer pressure and the fear of standing out. For anyone, that’s difficult but when you’re a teenager there’s so much pressure to conform. He says he’s going to feel like a pariah.
There’s a more general anxiety that forcing children to wear masks in schools will cause.