Tomah parents, kids protest potential Tomah School District mask mandate

TOMAH, Wis. (WKBT) — A group of parents, students and community members protested the possibility of mandatory masks for the Tomah School District Friday morning.

There is no mandate in place yet. This reaction comes after the Tomah School Board meeting Tuesday, when the board considered Superintendent Mike Hanson’s recommendation to mask all students 3K-12.

The board decided to wait for more information before making its decision, and will meet again on Sept. 20. The meeting will be open for public input.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended universal masking for kids K-12, regardless of vaccination status.

The protesters in Tomah disagree with the idea of a mandate. A large group of them marched from Gillette Park to the school district office, chanting “our child, our choice,” and carrying signs.

“We’re Americans, and our Constitution is based on our freedom of choice—our freedom to be able to do with our bodies what we want,” said Jennifer Walworth, a parent and protest organizer.

Sarah Lapp, another parent and protest organizer, planned the march. After Tuesday’s school board meeting, she said she felt it was time to take a stand.

“I put it out on Facebook and I said ‘Let’s meet at Gillette Park after you pick your kids up, and let’s stand our ground,'” Lapp said.

Her Facebook group has more than 1,700 members.

“I understand that there are people that want their kids to be wearing masks, and that is fine with me. I am OK with that, and my kids are OK with that. But my kids want to see their smiling teachers’ faces every day,” Lapp said.

Walworth said she’s seen negative results from mask requirements. She worries it will keep kids from reaching their full potential in school.

“It hurts them mentally, it hurts them physically. And our kids are coming home with headaches, learning disabilities,” Walworth said. “They’re going backwards instead of forwards.”

She said her group’s message is clear.

“It was optional at the start of the district, we want it to be kept optional. It should be a parent’s choice and a student’s choice. Not the district’s choice,” Walworth said.

Walworth also has a petition going that has gained over 1,000 signatures online.

Superintendent Hanson did not respond to our request for comment.

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