Unmask America's children – federal government should not be masking toddlers

A face mask may be one of the most debilitating learning barriers for young children

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We have dedicated much of our careers to fighting and overturning heavy-handed government mandates. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that when Democrats have power in Washington, they typically use it to impose freedom-restricting rules, whether it be on small businesses, family farmers or innovators. But we’ve never seen Democrats try to regulate the behavior of toddlers – until now.

As parents ourselves, we are outraged that the federal government is using taxpayer money to make children as young as 2 years old have to wear face masks

Head Start facilities provide early education services to low-income children through 1,600 facilities across the country, including in South Dakota and Louisiana. The Biden administration is now requiring Head Start grant recipients to mask toddlers at all times – even if they’re outside on the playground.

REPUBLICANS MUST REMIND AMERICANS THEY ARE THE SOBER ALTERNATIVE TO HYPER-WOKE DEMOCRATS

The decision to mask or not mask a toddler should be made by a parent or guardian, not Joe Biden. Not only is this decision to police schoolyard activities yet another affront to parents’ rights by the Biden administration, even worse is nothing about this nationwide policy is based on science or common sense.

We are heading into the third year of the pandemic, and we know a lot more now than we did in March 2020. Young children are less vulnerable to COVID-19 than other demographic groups. Thankfully, transmission among children is low, and symptoms, if any, are usually mild. That said, we understand some parents or individual Head Start programs may want to take extra measures to protect their children, including masking themselves or their kids, and they have every right to do so. 

But the federal government should stay out of that decision-making process, especially for Americans who are least at risk for the virus but high at risk for being left behind educationally or emotionally.

The United States is an outlier in how it treats young people during this pandemic. The World Health Organization explicitly states that "children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks … based on the safety and overall interest of the child." Also, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control doesn’t recommend mask-wearing for children under the age of 12.

A face mask may be one of the most debilitating learning barriers for young children. The early years are when kids learn to recognize facial cues, understand emotions, and speak and express themselves. Prolonged masking directly interferes with a student’s ability to learn verbal and non-verbal communication skills, which can set them back for the rest of their life.

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Thankfully, two federal judges have placed a preliminary injunction on the rule, pending a lawsuit from 25 states, including South Dakota and Louisiana. But that doesn’t mean we can let the people responsible for this mandate off the hook, nor can we stop this effort until the rule is finally dead.

If President Biden won’t withdraw this harmful requirement, we’ll work to force his hand. Republicans will be introducing legislation to nullify this harmful rule that is causing lasting damage to America’s children. Through the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the ability to overturn executive branch rules and regulations, members of Congress can either stand with America’s parents who care about their children’s education, or they can side with the union bosses and the Biden administration’s flawed playground mask policing rule. It’s a pretty easy choice for us.   

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We cannot allow big-government socialists to hold back America’s children any more than they already have. Children need to be in the classroom. And when there, they should be free to act as kids do – laughing, learning and interacting with friends and teachers unimpeded by a cloth mask that is likely doing very little besides serving as an impediment. 

Virtue signaling at the expense of our children is the worst kind of political theater. You only get one childhood. For the sake of today’s kids and their futures, Democrat politicians should take a real look at the science and have the courage to stand up for the children.

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Republican Steve Scalise is the U.S. House of Representatives minority whip. He represents Louisiana's 1st Congressional District, serving since 2008.