Parents upset over masking in East Williston schools

Parents upset over masking in East Williston schools
Board of Education President Mark Kamberg, pictured at a previous meeting, said that board intends to make masking in the district optional if the mandate is lifted in March. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

Parents at the East Williston Board of Education meeting on Monday voiced displeasure with the masking mandate in schools. 

After a Nassau County justice overturned Gov. Kathy Hochul’s statewide mask mandate in January, Appellate Judge Robert J. Miller “stayed,” or suspended, that decision, requiring students to once again wear protective face coverings in school.

Officials said the mandate, which expired Feb. 10 for indoor settings like restaurants and is set to expire on Monday for schools, could stay in effect until at least March 2, the deadline for the state to file documents for its appeal of a lawsuit filed by a group of 14 parents. The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 24, claims Hochul’s mask mandate was unconstitutional.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, parents reiterated to the East Williston board that they want to decide whether to mask their children.

One mother in the district, Ellie Konstantatos, said places outside schools are essentially maskless and children are suffering from what has been multiple years of masking. 

“We all were able to go to a Super Bowl party last night maskless and we were able to celebrate Valentine’s Day without masks,” she said. “Yet our children are still lawlessly required to wear masks for seven hours a day without any scheduled mask breaks.”

Board President Mark Kamberg said during January’s meeting that the board has always followed state guidelines. On Monday, he said, “It’s our intent that when masks are optional, we will be optional.” 

“One of the things that are central to our entire administrative team together with the board this entire process is to be consistent,” Kamberg said in January. “Consistent with following the rules and mandates in place. So I would expect that when those rules and mandates change, we will equally be consistent in how we go about things.”

  Another mother, Heather Ledwith, said children should not be burdened to protect adults. 

“We need only look at the suicide rates of teenagers, the rise of mental health cases, reading delays, speech delays and so on,” she said. “I support the choice for anyone who wants to continue to wear a mask to do so. I also support educating our children about why some of their classmates will still continue to wear a mask after they themselves have stopped.”

Ledwith continued that students, especially at young ages, are taught why some children with allergies sit at different tables, some have glasses or may be in a wheelchair, reiterating that they should be taught empathy and standing up for what they believe in. 

“Hopefully our governor will follow suit with New Jersey and Connecticut and remove the mandate,” she continued. “At that point, I expect the board to put our children first and advocate for choice.”

Another resident, Arthur Golub, said as a school psychologist in a different district he has seen that children are being told there is danger everywhere they go.

“For the last few years our children have been psychologically abused,” Golub said. “They’re told by people they trust that even though you feel healthy you may be carrying a deadly virus that could kill you, your friends and your loved ones.” 

The next Board of Education meeting will be Monday, March 21.

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