Beacon Children's Hospital urging PHM to change mask policy

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind -- As Penn-Harris-Madison schools prepare to start their school year Wednesday, there are growing concerns from parents on masks being optional for students, teachers, and staff.

The decision to make masks optional was made by the Penn-Harris-Madison school board in a 5-2 vote, favoring the optional masks mandate.

Since the ruling, parents have been vocal about how upset they are about the new mandate.

"I would hate to have them to have to like either one of my kids have to continuously be sent home because they were in contact with somebody that tested positive or something like that, just because we aren’t enforcing masks," said parent Lyzz Sears.

Parents aren't the only people upset by the school board's decision.

The Beacon Children's Hospital weighed in on the decision by sending a letter to the PHM school board and addressing it to the board's president, Chris Riley.

"We do hope that the PHM school board and families of students really look at what is available as far as facts and recommendations from local, state, and national health departments and follow the guidelines to wear a mask and the strong recommendations to wear a mask," said Beacon Children Hospital Medical Director.

Other health officials within St. Joseph County also chimed in on their thoughts of the letter, saying this was necessary.

"It doesn’t mean it’ll be masks all year long but for where we are right now in the pandemic and with the spread of the delta variant, I was glad to see Beacon Health System send a letter to the school," said St. Joseph County Department of Health Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox.

The decision does more than just put students health at risk according to parents.

It can also impact their mental health when it comes to making a decision, out of peer-pressure.

"My ninth grader, she’s starting at Penn High School and if she walks in a classroom where 24 other people are unmasked, the social pressure and the temptation to fit in is going to create a very strong risk that she’s just going to slip her mask into her backpack," said Dr. Fox.

Dr. Jerry Thacker, Superintendent, Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation released the following statement:

I would like to express our appreciation to Mr. Tray and his colleagues for sharing their concerns with President Riley and me. We appreciate their expertise and commitment to health and safety. We will use their information as a presentation is developed for the School Board meeting on Monday, August 23.


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