House committee OKs mask optional measure for schools, protects child care

Child care licenses could not be revoked for refusing to mandate masks

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Legislation providing parents the right to opt their students out from mask mandates in Kentucky’s school and child care settings passed the House Education Committee earlier today. HB 51, sponsored by Representative Lynn Bechler, gives parents the option to send their children to school with or without facial coverings at all levels of education—from child care centers and public K-12 schools to higher education institutions.

“We are empowering parents to decide whether or not their own kids wear a mask,” said Bechler, of Crittenden. “It’s a well-known fact a one size fits all approach does not work. The data shows us children are least likely to catch, spread or suffer from Covid-19, and keeping them masked has had little to no effect these last few years.”

Bechler stressed that people communicate with more than just voice, and that facial expressions are necessary to understand what the person speaking is trying to get across. He highlighted the many unintended consequences of the pandemic, noting the increased number of speech delays in kids and the significant learning loss. In 2019, third-grade K-Prep proficiency reading scores sat at 52.7 percent. The 2021 proficiency scores fell to 29.8 percent.

“Giving local control is ultimately about giving people a choice in what impacts them the most,” added Bechler. “I can’t think of a greater example of this than allowing parents to choose whether or not to mask a child. Parents can make their own informed decision when it comes to this, and college students should be able to do the same. I look forward to seeing all the smiles on children’s faces.”

“Here’s what I discovered about local control in Frankfort, you use it depending on whether you are for or against the bill and it makes no difference whether you are Republican or Democrat,” noted state Rep. Steve Riley, a Republican from Glasgow.

“So for me, this is a mask vs. NTI and all the evidence about mask-wearing harm is anecdotal. What’s not anecdotal is NTI being a detriment so that’s why I am a no vote today to keep local control and making sure we’re keeping kids in person,” added state Rep. Killian Timoney, a Republican from Lexington who is an experienced educator and school administrator.

HB 51 additionally creates safeguards for child care centers. The legislation clearly states that their license cannot be revoked for refusing to require masks, and they cannot be penalized nor fined by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

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