Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has no sympathy for parents objecting to his edict that children attending school either wear masks or face possible criminal charges.
Herbert issued the mask mandate, for grades K-12, in July. The reopening of Utah’s public schools has drawn new attention to the edict, which calls for a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for showing up without one. The order applies equally to adults and children, and any charge would be a misdemeanor.
Herbert said Thursday that parents opposed to his order are “a little bit irrational,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
“I think these same people might get on an airplane and say they’re not going to fasten their seat belts,” he said. “And they may be invited to get off the plane if that’s the case.”
Anna Lehnardt, a spokeswoman for Herbert, said school officials will decide if they want to make compliance a criminal issue, according to the Salt Lake City newspaper.
“It’s enforced on a district and superintendent level,” she said. “But we’re not thinking, ‘Let’s slap a bunch of kids with misdemeanors.‘”
K-12 students and teachers in Utah now can be charged with a misdemeanor for not wearing a mask. Violating the order would be a class B misdemeanor. That is punishable by a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. https://t.co/Z6VoiDoXRo
— CNN (@CNN) August 20, 2020
Parents are less casual about the law’s potential enforcement.
“Our children should not have to suffer criminal consequences for getting an education,” said Angie Martin, the mother of a Cache County high school student.
Parent Danielle Cottam of St. George was not taking chances, and pulled her five children out of school.
“I should have the kids in school,” Cottam told the Tribune. “But I chose to keep them home because of the mask crap.”
She called the requirement “totally unconstitutional. It’s not even giving us a choice. I think I should have a right to choose whether or not my kids have to wear it.”
She said that the longer school goes on, the more likely a backlash over the policy becomes.
“I just think if things keep going this way, there’s going to be an uprising, and it’s going to get ugly,” Cottam said.
Candice Nay, a parent of three students, said the law punishes the wrong people.
“I know everybody has different views on it, but that’s out of hand,” she said. “At least give the parent the misdemeanor. Don’t give my kids, who are that young, a misdemeanor.”
Lehnardt said the expectation is that schools will rarely pursue charges, noting that schools can always send students who will not wear a mask home to learn online.
“We want our teachers to be safe,” Lehnardt said.
Although Utah legislators are looking to revise some coronavirus-related orders, Lehnardt said the in-school mask mandate will not change.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.