Personal choice crosses partisan lines and ideological boundaries.
- And in Florida, it’s the state government that has fined Leon County for exercising its own vaccine requirement. “We will continue fighting for Floridians’ rights,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, announcing the fines.
Personal choice for parents is emerging as a splinter issue. It is complicated by the fact that children don’t have the legal power to make their own choices and they may be required by local governments to physically attend schools.
“My message for you and all that are listening is that Covid is not over, no matter what people who have been standing up here have said,” Sperry, who also teaches in the district, said, according to CNN’s report. “On September 27, during the last meeting, there were parents or concerned citizens that voiced misinformation to you.”
Parental choice is the new euphemism for personal freedom. Covid-19 protection measures at public schools are turning into a key political issue — one pushed by both the Republican Party as well as frustrated parents who disagree with either public health officials or freedom-guarding politicians.
With authorization for younger kids in the US to get the shot expected around Halloween, look for this debate to become even more heated.
Parental choice has emerged as a major element of the Virginia governor’s race, where Republican Glenn Youngkin has seized on comments made during a debate by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision,” McAuliffe said at the debate, later adding, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Using the rights of parents as an umbrella, Youngkin has been able to tuck in a number of other issues conservative activists have weaponized to rile up mostly White parents in suburbs across the country, including mask and vaccine mandates in schools, the role of racial equity education and transgender rights. These fights, especially on masks, have been particularly potent in the Northern Virginia suburbs, where political operatives from Washington have helped foment the anger.
Nationwide, most kids are required to wear masks at school. And parents are OK with it. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey from September found 69% of parents whose children attend in-person schools reporting masks were required there. Most parents are on board with masks in the Kaiser poll:
- 58% said there should be mask requirements for all students and staff.
- 35% said there should be no requirement at all.
Moms are far more likely than dads — 70% vs. 42% — to support mask requirements.
Two-thirds of parents in the poll said their school district was doing “about the right amount” and only 11% said their district was doing too much to limit the spread of Covid-19.
It’s expected that a lot of the maybes will, over time, get the shot for their kids. That’s what’s happened both with adults getting their own vaccines and for kids 12 and older, although vaccination rates for older kids still lag behind those for older Americans.
CBS asked parents about their support for masks in a different way than Kaiser, and saw the following results:
- 55% of parents of school-age children said they should be required.
- 39% said they should be optional, and 6% said they should not be allowed.
Opposition vs. anger. You can imagine it’s people from among the committed anti-mask 6% who are protesting masked kids as they walk into schools.
It’s a more sizable minority who are open to other people wearing masks but opposed to mask requirements.
The CBS News poll also uncovered festering animosity among the vaccinated toward holdouts.
- 37% reported being upset or angry at the unvaccinated.
- 56% said the unvaccinated were putting people at risk.
- Only about a third — 32% — said they respected the decision of the unvaccinated.
Mandates, not vaccines, are the sticking point. Even most Republicans in the CBS News poll — 64% — said they prefer candidates who encourage vaccines. But only a quarter of Republicans and 54% of independents said they would back a candidate who supports mandates for vaccines.
In Texas, Abbott has tapped into Republicans’ bristling at mandates with his new ban on vaccine mandates by any entity in the state.
He has also picked a fight with the federal government, which is moving toward requiring companies that employ more than 100 people to mandate vaccines as a matter of public safety.
Whose vaccine order should Texas employers follow? Per Isidore: “Major business groups had welcomed the Biden plans for employer vaccine mandates. They wanted their workforces to be vaccinated, both to reduce absenteeism and health care costs, and so that they didn’t have to worry about vaccine-hesitant employees leaving and going to competitors who don’t require vaccines. But the last thing they wanted was to be caught in the middle of a legal and political battle between competing orders.”