A mask mandate originally set to expire this week was renewed by the Tallapoosa County Board of Education despite one parent's pleas otherwise.
Jennifer Trotman, speaking on her own family's behalf and on the behalf of another parent, registered her disagreement at the regular board meeting Monday.
"I think it should be optional for the parents," she said. "I don't think it's fair that you choose whether our child has to be oxygen deprived wearing that mask for seven or eight hours a day."
The board had temporarily reinstated the COVID-19 precaution in August amid the rising fourth wave of coronavirus cases, driven by the fast-spreading Delta variant and low vaccination rates, with a plan to reevaluate Sept. 13. On Monday, the Tallapoosa County Board of Education unanimously voted to extend that mandate.
“I think we need to do everything we can to keep our students and staff as safe as we possibly can during this time,” board president Carla Talton said in approval of the motion.
Trotman, who said she was told the meeting started at 5:30 p.m., not 5, was not present during the vote but still used her 10 minutes of speaking time after the motion had already passed.
Trotman said her children are now in virtual school due to recent asthma and epilepsy flare-ups, which she attributes to the mask-wearing.
"I've been raising my son for 17 years," she said. "I think I know my son's health way better than this school board and way better than any teacher that works in that school."
Trotman then quoted several articles linking mask-wearing with oxygen deprivation and other health problems.
As of April, Alabama has not required masks in public schools, with Gov. Kay Ivey passing the ball to the local school board. However, in August, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released back-to-school guidance that strongly recommended schools implement mandatory masking.
A study in the medical journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society last year found no evidence of face masks significantly obstructing the flow of oxygen, even for those with severe lung disease. Countless local, national and global health authorities including ADPH, the CDC and the World Health Organization back the use of face coverings to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Trotman is not the first to object to the board of education's decision.
Last month, Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Ray Porter issued a statement within the first week of school addressing implied criticism of the mask mandate.
"I realize there is much debate over masks, and your trust in our judgement concerning the protection of our precious children does not go unnoticed," he stated. "This year has already offered challenges that we all thought would be over by now. However, this is not the case... We would like nothing more than to have a 'regular' school year, but until we are able to do that, we will continue to always base our decisions on safety."
Porter thanked Trotman for the "passionate speech" Monday and said he would address her concerns in a letter.
The Alexander City Board of Education also opted to reinstate its mask policy, to be reevaluated every six weeks, superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford said at the time. Six weeks from the first day of school falls on Wednesday, Sept. 29.