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Parents say students are being bullied regarding mask wearing

Masks have become a polarizing, political issue, and now parents say this disagreement is spilling onto school grounds too.
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 10:37 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Every school year, parents worry about their kids being bullied, teased, taunted, or left out. That is not new, but adding masks into the mix, it could lead to exactly what parents fear most.

Several concerned parents say their kids have experienced bullying on school grounds for either choosing to wear a mask, or not. “No matter what side you chose you’re on one side of the wrong way or the other,” said Parent Jason Saenz.

Saenz has a seventh grader at Flinn Middle School in Rockford. He says his son has been humiliated and taunted by several classmates for not wearing a mask.

“I couldn’t imagine being a 7th grader right now, nor would I want to with how difficult it is,” said Saenz. “It really just kind of breaks your heart.”

Kevin Polky with KP Counseling says this started as a response to political differences, instead of power dynamics associated with popularity for children.

“We have young individuals that may not even understand what’s going on, but they’re repeating what they’ve heard,” said Polky.

Belvidere Student and Student Council President Briana Anson says “mask checking” has become a huge trend. This means students will rip masks off another student’s face if they are wearing one.

Anson became inspired to take a stand against bullying and created an Anti-Bullying and Acts of Kindness campaign for her school.

“I really want it to bring out kindness in our world,” said Anson. “I feel like there’s not a lot anymore and people have been losing hope in a way, especially with COVID going on the past two years.”

Saenz adds that parents also have a responsibility in putting an end to this trend.

“I feel like a lot of parents don’t understand how hard this has been on there kids,” said Saenz. “They’re not sitting down having a talk with their kids saying, hey, you can disrespectfully disagree with someone. Don’t make them feel less about themselves.”

Polky emphasizes this is an incredibly developmental age for children, and the need for a sense of belonging is incredibly important. Saenz adds to this, saying it’s already hard for children to fit in at this age, and mask-bullying makes it that much more difficult.

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