Anti-mask protests continue near Glen Ellyn school despite concerns from parents
Anti-mask protesters again lined the streets outside the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 administration offices Wednesday despite concerns from parents about the safety of students arriving at a neighboring school.
Several parents have asked village officials to intervene, saying protesters have been harassing, video-recording and hurling insults at students. Several said they heard protesters taunting grade schoolers by calling them "Hitler youth."
Protesters have been gathering daily at the crosswalk near the intersection of Elm and Main streets. District 41 school board President Robert Bruno has written a letter asking Glen Ellyn officials to create a "buffer zone" between those walking to school and the protesters.
A small group of protesters returned Wednesday morning, waving flags and posters at cars. Some residents have responded by forming a "human shield" for schools families walking the route. A police officer also was in a nearby parking lot.
"Our main desire is really to protect the safety of our foot traffic and car traffic going to school in the morning and designate a space for the protesters to continue to protest but maintain safety," District 41 Superintendent Melissa Kaczkowski told reporters. "That's our biggest concern ... It's a busy intersection on a typical day, and so with the increase of distraction with the drivers, we just want to protect safety."
Protesters, who refused to give their full names when asked by a photojournalist, disputed what parents said at a village board meeting Monday night.
One woman said that the group is made up of parents, grandparents and other adults and that they're "calm, kind patriotic." Another woman wore a "Make America Great Again" hat.
Parents have said they've heard offensive language, Kaczkowski said. One parent reported that her daughter was referred to as a "child of Hitler," Kaczkowski said.
"There have days that have been more antagonistic than others," she said. "But I've had parents come through the intersection and come directly and report things to me immediately following."
Masks are required for children and adults inside Illinois schools to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
When individuals cough, sneeze, talk or yell, respiratory droplets from their mouths and noses travel through the air and come into contact with other people. That's the main way COVID-19 spreads, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control explains.
"Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth," CDC officials said.
The American Academy of Pediatricians concurs, noting that masks are crucial tools to protect children ages 11 and younger who are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines and with the highly infectious delta variant circulating.
Claims that masks harm children are untrue, the AAP and CDC said.
"Masks are made from breathable materials that will not block the oxygen your child needs. Masks will not affect your child's ability to focus or learn in school," AAP officials said.