Utah parents, leaders react to state investigation for school mask mandate law

Aug 30, 2021, 9:43 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation against Utah and four other states for bans on mask mandates in schools.

They said it’s a violation of the rights for disabled students to safely go to school.

KSL-TV talked with some parents who said the move brings them renewed hope.

Some parent groups in Utah are pushing to get that power back in the hands of local school boards, but some lawmakers said the investigation has no teeth since there technically is no ban on mask mandates in schools.

Few people actually like wearing masks, but a lot of people feel it’s necessary in keeping people safe.

“We really hope they push it and that we make some changes,” said parent Genevera Prothero.

Prothero has pre-diabetes, asthma and a condition in her esophagus.

“If I had an issue, they would have a hard time putting a ventilator in me because, unfortunately, I’ve got scar tissue, and they’ve had to stretch my esophagus,” she said.

Prothero is part of the group, Keep Davis School District Safe, which pushes to keep the hybrid in person and online model at their schools.

The group started over a year ago.

But some lawmakers said the investigation from the U.S. Department of Education may not go anywhere.

“I don’t even care about it. Hell, it’s a waste of time,” said Rep. Paul Ray, (R-Clearfield).

Ray, who sponsored the bill that became Utah’s current law on the handling of mask mandates, said it should be left up to parental choice.

He also said mask mandates can happen in the state if they go through local health departments and county commissions or councils.

“You know, are we going to do that for every flu season? Are we going to do that every year when RSV becomes big? The fact of the matter is: we have a choice to do what we want to do,” said Ray.

But Prothero said there’s a challenge for compromised parents and students.

“Your choice of not masking is impacting the choice of somebody living or dying,” she said.

Unfortunately for some parents, Ray may have a point. Gov. Spencer Cox and the Utah State Board of Education added that, unlike some other states, there is a path for mask mandates in the state — it’s been done in Salt Lake City and Grand County.

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Utah parents, leaders react to state investigation for school mask mandate law