District 211 parents, student tell of bullying but also respect since going mask-optional
On a day that didn't bring an expected Illinois appellate court ruling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker's school mask mandate, some people still addressed the issue during the public comment portion of Thursday's Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board meeting.
They focused on the both the good and bad in the nearly two weeks that District 211 has complied with a downstate judge's temporary restraining order on the mandate, making masks optional.
Jennifer Dahl, a registered nurse who'd previously spoken before the board about what she described as the negative impacts of constant mask-wearing on children, expressed anger over the arrest of a masked student at Fremd High School in Palatine who is accused of drawing a knife on an unmasked student Feb. 7.
She asked why the school wasn't immediately locked down due to the presence of a weapon, and she questioned why students like the one arrested hadn't been psychologically prepared for a day when wearing a mask would be a choice.
"Where were the conversations around unmasking?" Dahl asked. "You knew this day was eventually coming."
In contrast, Hoffman Estates High School student Sophia Steel said her school had created the most respectful spirit in the district. She said she hopes the year can progress without any further disruptions to individuals' right to choose.
"Within the last week, there have been more smiling faces," Steel said.
Parent Robi Vollkommer said the district must adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying and better monitor bathrooms for the abuse she said unmasked students were receiving from masked ones.
Vollkommer thanked the district's teachers who were not wearing masks for helping students making the same choice feel more comfortable.
No parents or students who supported mask-wearing spoke Thursday night.
Dennis Wagner said his own son would prefer not to wear a mask but feels hesitant about standing out from the crowd in any way.
"We should not be teaching our kids to conform, but unfortunately that's what we did," Wagner said.
Jessica Hinkle said her son has felt much more comfortable at school without wearing a mask and thanked all her fellow parents who had been pushing for a mask-optional policy throughout the school year.
District 211 board President Anna Klimkowicz said the past two weeks certainly had the potential to increase the turmoil of the past two years and thanked everyone who had demonstrated respect during the recent policy change.