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Lawmakers advance bill to undo school mask mandates

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 10:14 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Currently every county except one, Pocahontas County, has some sort of mask mandate in place, but that could change with the proposed Public School Health Rights Act as it reignites the debate between broad precautions and choice.

The legislation -- House Bill 4071 -- targets schools and local officials, either elected or appointed.

It prohibits them from imposing a mask mandate for any student or school employee, regardless of a confirmed outbreak.

The bill came under intense criticism from Democrats, before ultimately advancing out of the House Education Committee with an 18-to-6 vote.

“What about the freedom of me to send my child to school to be in a safe environment where they might not catch COVID by the school using proper protocols of masking?” said Del. Cody Thompson, D-Randolph.

“We have an intersectionality,” said Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia. “Those students just don’t go to school and then come home. Those parents actually go to work. Some of those students’ parents are educators. Some of those students’ parents work in the health care industry.”

The legislation also outlaws any testing requirement for those who are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic.

The bill’s sponsor, Del. Jordan Maynor, R-Raleigh, said it’s about restoring choice to parents.

“I think its time to empower parents, empower individuals to start making these decisions, and I urge passage,” he said.

The legislation also restricts quarantine to only those who test positive for COVID-19. If that occurs, the quarantine period will end after five days or with a negative test result.

School systems that violate the law could face lawsuits from parents.

The proposal now moves to the House Judiciary Committee.

In other news, the House Education Committee unanimously advanced a proposal to raise awareness and increase training to prevent self-harm and eating disorders in students.

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