School Masking Policy Gone Overboard?

School Masking Policy Gone Overboard?

Photo Credit: The Toronto Star

School administrators stick to their guns in a dispute over what kind of masks teachers can wear.

Victor Buklis, Opinion Editor

Back in October, administrators at the York Region District School Board threatened disciplinary action against three teachers who weren’t wearing proper face masks. The problem? The teachers were wearing N95 respirator masks instead of the standard blue surgical masks supplied by the provincial government.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), N95 respirators provide better protection from airborne particles than surgical masks. N95s can filter out 95 percent or more of small airborne particles the wearer encounters. Surgical masks do not do this.

All three teachers (who spoke to CP24 anonymously) said that they paid for the respirators by themselves and simply wanted to make their classrooms as safe as possible. But the administrators weren’t satisfied, and they directed the teachers to swap the N95s for surgical masks. One teacher received a one-day suspension without pay for refusing to comply.

What goes on behind closed doors is, of course, a mystery. The private conversations between individual teachers and school administrators are unknown to the public. But it’s important to speculate every now and then. One can only wonder what must’ve transpired when school administrators pulled the teachers aside, so here goes:

SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR: We noticed that you’re wearing one of those respirator masks. We require blue surgical masks at this school.

TEACHER: I see. But I paid for this mask by myself. I wanted to exceed the school board’s mask requirement, and I figured this would be a good way to do that.

ADMINISTRATOR: You can’t do that.

TEACHER: Why not? I want to make sure that my classroom is as safe as it can be. Really, I’d like to keep the N95.

ADMINISTRATOR: No can do. Please—just put one of these regulation masks on. I’ve got one for you right here.

TEACHER: But why?

ADMINISTRATOR: Well… it’s the policy.

TEACHER: But why is it the policy?

ADMINISTRATOR: I’d really like it if you just put one of these masks on. It’s probably not even comfortable wearing those N95s, right?

TEACHER: And I’d really like to know why I can’t add an extra layer of protection if I’m willing to pay for it. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but I’m willing to pay a bit more to exceed the rules and take extra precautions. I’d really feel much more comfortable if I could continue wearing this one.

ADMINISTRATOR: Alright, fine. So your mask is better than ours. It does a better job at reducing virus transmission. But then you’d have something the other teachers don’t have. You’d be making them feel unsafe with your extra precautions. It’s just too much protection.

TEACHER: That’s ridiculous. How could I possibly be making them feel unsafe? I’m making myself as safe as possible because I’d like to. I’m not forcing anyone else to do the same thing. If anything, others are safer around me because I won’t transmit any particles near them. Plus, they don’t cost that much: you can find a 10-pack for less than $20. If other teachers want them, they’re certainly available.

ADMINISTRATOR: Fine. But… you see, it makes us look bad if we can’t provide all teachers with the same thing.

TEACHER: So this is actually about you, then? That’s even more ridiculous. Can I go back to my class now, please? My students are waiting.

ADMINISTRATOR: Not unless you wear the blue mask.

TEACHER: My apologies, but I simply won’t do it. Your rule doesn’t make sense.

ADMINISTRATOR: Then we’ll suspend you for non-compliance. We can’t have that kind of rule breaking around here. We’re the administrators, after all. We just need you to wear a blue surgical mask—that’s how we envisioned the province’s guidelines, so it has to happen that way.

Humble musings. That is all. The school administrators seem to have everything well under their control. Don’t you think so?