Hundreds of parents join Republican party to protest mask mandate

Demonstrators gather for a rally outside the Genesee County Administration Building prior to the Board of Health meeting. Photo courtesy Mindy Cramer

Demonstrators gather for a rally outside the Genesee County Administration Building prior to the Board of Health meeting. Photo courtesy Mindy Cramer

FLINT — Amy Roulleau has dedicated her life to protecting children, and she says she sees a lot of red flags in the current mask mandates for COVID-19.

Roulleau, of Swartz Creek, was among about 500 people who joined the Republican Party at the Genesee County Administration Building on Wednesday, Aug. 18, to protest the mandate for school children.

“I’ve done hundreds of human trafficking seminars, and I’m hearing the same things you hear from predators: it’s for your own good, it will keep you safe. It’s manipulation and coercion. We’re going to see a lot of PTSD in the long term.”

Matthew Smith, chairman of the Genesee County GOP and a Davison Community Schools Board of Education member, organized and led the rally many organizers claimed included other elected officials, school superintendents, parents, grandparents and concerned residents.

The View was unable to verify claims school superintendents were present in the crowd.

The protest came six days after the Genesee County Health Department announced a new mask mandate, superseding State of Michigan recommendations, according to a press release issued by the Republican Party.

Kayleigh Blaney, deputy health director for Genesee County, said the current order was issued Aug. 12, mandating mask use in all school buildings, public and private, in the county.

The decision was based on case data reported to the state data base, which is showing high incidences of the Delta variant, Blaney said.

“The Delta variant is much more contagious than the original strain, and also much more contagious than the UK variant and Alpha variant,” Blaney said.

In addition, health professionals are seeing more cases of vaccinated individuals being infected, although those patients are faring better than the unvaccinated, and are not requiring hospitalization or dying, Blaney said.

The concern as schools begin to open for the 2021-22 academic year is that the Delta variant is affecting more children than the other variants did.

Still, the decision regarding whether or not a child should wear a mask remains the proprietary right of the parent, Smith indicated.

“Masks should be optional for students in Genesee County, and parents should be in control of their children’s educational experience,” Smith said.

“Davison parents were just told that masks were optional as we conducted summer preparations for the upcoming school year, now just days before the first day of school, this mandate is slapped on us. I respect either route, masks or no masks, but they should not be mandatory.”

Dr. Jon D. Morey, a Flushing chiropractor, agrees.

“I’m against the mandate,” he said. “Kids have to socialize, and I think masks create a psycho-social barrier to that. It will retard their development.”

Morey said he opposes mandates in any form and, like many opponents, he fears it will lead to more government imposition, such as mandatory vaccinations.

“I’m not for or against (masks), just the mandate,” he said. “I don’t think it should be forced.”

Paraphrasing a now oft-recited quote from Benjamin Franklin, Morey added, “Those who would trade freedom for safety deserve neither.”

Retired nurse Barb Besso of Swartz Creek said she if well aware of the importance of frequently washing reusable masks or changing and discarding disposable masks.

“Too many studies show they grow bacteria,” she said, which is particularly concerning for students who have compromised immune systems. “They shouldn’t have to wear masks all day.”

During the rally, Smith was joined on the dais by other speakers, including Donielle Quinn of the Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools, Amy Facchinello of the Grand Blanc Community Schools, and Chris Fletcher of Lake Fenton Community Schools. Each school board member made the case to the Board of Health of their district’s willingness to develop a compromise that works for all families.

At the conclusion of the protest, Commissioner Shaun Shumaker, who also serves on the Genesee County Board of Health, led the crowd inside the Administration Building where the Health Department was meeting.

About 100 people addressed the board. While some proponents of mandatory masks expressed their gratitude for masking children, the crowd was overwhelmingly opposed.

Nurses, teachers, parents, grandparents, current students and recent graduates shared concerns, frustrations, their children’s experiences as well as the juvenile mental health issues they attributed to last school year’ quarantines and mandatory masks, not the least of which were suicidal ideations, according to the press release.

Hackert, who issued the mandate, was not present for the Board of Health meeting, during which Shumaker made a motion to rescind the mandate. The vote ultimately failed 5-3, with Commissioners Schumaker, Stuart Sherry and Krystal Alexander voting in favor.