Capital Region

Parents, students in local districts speak out against mask mandates

Niskayuna High School student Miles Volo tries to address members of the school board without a mask with his father Mike Volo at right on Feb. 1 , 2022.

Niskayuna High School student Miles Volo tries to address members of the school board without a mask with his father Mike Volo at right on Feb. 1 , 2022.

Parents and students in at least two school districts have spoken out against masking mandates this week, with some saying it should be left up to the student, family or teacher. 

Some students said they felt discriminated against for not choosing not to wear a mask, particularly after the state Supreme Court ruled Jan. 24 the governor’s mask mandate was unconstitutional. A stay on the mandate was implemented while the state Appeals Court hears the matter. 

Around a dozen students spoke out about masking during the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school board meeting Wednesday night.

Senior Mia Belanger said she was harassed by students on Jan. 25 for not wearing a mask to school after the court’s ruling. She said the school day was hard because of the way other students treated her. Regardless, she said it felt good not wearing the mask.

“My face felt genuinely free,” she said. “There was nothing blocking it, nothing to hide my emotions, nothing to keep people from seeing my smile.”

She encouraged other students who don’t want to wear their masks to stay strong. 

“It will be because of strong kids that these overreaching policies will finally be done away with, so stay strong,” she said.

Parents also spoke out against the mask mandate.

“Some people are claiming we want to ban masks altogether, that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Melissa Barone. “We are supporting choice and respect for all families and teachers.”

Superintendent Patrick McGrath said he has sat in on meetings where officials have indicated this could move from a health decision to a more social and community decision. 

“I envision that in the not-so-distant future board members will be asked to make decisions at the board level with how we should proceed forward with the mask mandate or how we should proceed forward with a variety of mitigation strategies as we work through the changes in the pandemic numbers,” McGrath said. 

Niskayuna school board members faced a similar sentiment from speakers at its board meeting Tuesday evening.

During the privilege of the floor portion of the meeting student Miles Volo got up to address the board, immediately removing his mask at the podium. After being told by board President Kim Tully he needed to put it back on, Volo accused the board of trying to censor him. 

Volo then remained standing at the podium not reading his comments until his allotted three minutes was up. 

Tully indicated during that time the board was interested in hearing his comments.

Tully also offered to allow Volo another three minutes to address the board which Volo said wasn’t necessary.

After Miles Volo begrudgingly went back to his seat, unhappy his father Mike Volo also went to the podium and removed his mask. He began speaking when Tully called for a break in the meeting. 

“I’ll put my mask on,” Mike Volo said. “I’ll speak your language.”

He then began making a sheep noise while mentioning the CDC, Fauci, and no research.

He started to repeatedly ask board members if they cared about the health of students in the district before going further into his comments. 

“Why are we making our children suffer with masks from something they have almost no health risk from because the CDC says so,” he said.

He asked the district for its reasons for having the mask policy.

The board does not respond during board meetings to residents’ comments, instead following up with them later on.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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