Mississippi parents demand governor ban mask mandates after superintendent overrules school board

Governors in other red states have banned school districts from requiring masks

A group of parents in Mississippi are asking Gov. Tate Reeves to ban mask mandates after a superintendent in the state overrode the school district's board, which had voted to make mask wearing optional. 

Former Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency chief of staff Mandy Gunasekara and other parents are organizing to petition Reeves to sign an executive order banning mask mandates in the state, similar to Texas and other states.

"We are asking the Governor of the state to step up and protect the citizens of this state from local officials using COVID as a mechanism for control rather than figuring out the best, most informed path for protection," Gunasekara told Fox News in a Monday email.

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The group, Mississippians for Mask Choice, is sending around an email blasting the governor for remaining "silent and passive relative to the incremental and systematic erosion of our personal and parental liberties" in the face of mask mandates.

Parents are also called on in the email to call Reeves "and voice your emphatic support on a new executive order, similar to that in Florida, Texas and other states that protect personal and parental liberties relative to mask mandates."

"We are watching our freedoms erode on a daily basis and we're asking our Governor to man up and protect his Mississippians," the email reads, also encouraging recipients to sign the petition to the governor by Wednesday, August 4 to make Mississippi a "no mandate state."

Reeves previously called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent guidance recommending mask wearing for vaccinated people "foolish."

"It reeks of political panic so as to appear they are in control," Reeves said at the Neshoba county fair on Sunday. "It has nothing to do with rational science."

According to Gunesekara, the petition has already garnered over 100 signatures after hitting the internet Sunday night.

The petition comes after the Oxford School District board’s 4-1 vote to make masks optional for students was overridden by a mandate by superintendent Bradley Roberson for students and staff to wear masks.

"This mask requirement only applies to indoor school settings. Outside recess and outdoor extracurricular activities will remain mask optional," Roberson said in a video announcing the mask mandate.

"I hope this will only be for a short period; however, at this time, it provides us the opportunity to keep our kids in school, provide them will the best possible education, and also eliminate the need for quarantines in the classroom setting," he continued.

In an email to Fox News, Roberson said the district’s "schools have been left to figure out the best way to prevent quarantine for our students" and that their "achievement data" illustrated "shows the negative impacts of virtual learning that we were thrust into during the 2020-2021 school year," like other schools around the country.

"So my goal, with several others in Mississippi, is to prevent our students from being sent home due to close contact of COVID-19," Roberson said, adding the "guidance from the Mississippi Department of Health states" that the definition of close contact "excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student" where both students were "engaged in consistent and correct use of wellfitting masks."

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The superintendent said that people "can agree or disagree on whether or not masks prevent COVID-19," but the guidance from the Mississippi Department of Health says "masks prevent [the] quarantine of students."

"This is different than last school year. That was the basis for our decision to require masks for the first two weeks of school," Roberson added. "Our vaccination numbers in Mississippi are low and our COVID numbers have been climbing for the last 10 days."