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‘Please unmask our kids!’: Crowd brings hot debate to Bend-La Pine School Board

Several parents urged not requiring masks in schools again this fall; doctors' letter urged continuing mask rules

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Dozens of passionate parents showed up at the Bend-La Pine School Board meeting Tuesday evening to voice their opinions on whether young students should still be required to masks in school this fall.

"I implore you -- do your job and please, unmask our kids! The burden of proof lies on you,” parent Dr. Michelle Mattingly said.

Bend-La Pine Schools officials said about 130 people attended the meeting. The most passionate comments opposed continued mask-wearing for elementary school students in the fall.

"I believe there is sufficient evidence that the risks outweigh the benefits of masking healthy children,” Mattingly said. 

During the meeting, board member Amy Tatom read a letter signed by physicians and medical providers in the district.

"We ask that you continue to mandate masks for elementary school aged children while indoors at least until they can be fully vaccinated,” Tatom said, quoting the letter. 

The letter signers said they support "evidence-based and scientifically sound decisions."

The school district said it has not yet decided whether to require masks for unvaccinated young children, and is waiting on further state guidance.

The Oregon Department of Education's most recent “Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance,” published June 25, states it "strongly advises face coverings for all students grades kindergarten and up while inside."

Newly elected board member Marcus LeGrand, sworn into office Tuesday, said the meeting was a learning experience and he appreciated everyone's passion, but encouraged everyone on hand to understand the board's priority is to support and protect the children.

"That's what we're here to do, is to try and make this community stronger, not divided,” LeGrand said. “But if you're here to divide and here to have only one agenda, do me a big favor and stay home."

The Redmond School District will not require mask use. The Crook and Jefferson county school districts are also waiting for more state guidance next week.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus
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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.

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