ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — The St. Tammany Parish School board has reportedly asked Louisiana’s highest school board to allow parents to choose whether their children must wear masks in classes in the upcoming school year.
The school board is also asking for the Board of Secondary Education to allow St. Tammany Parish School System employees and volunteers to choose whether or not to wear face coverings.
BESE is expected to discuss the topic when it meets on Aug. 17. In July, before the latest and record-setting wave of the virus, the board declined to enact statewide requirements, with board President Sandy Holloway saying that those decisions were best left to local school systems.
Gov. John Bel Edwards reinstated the statewide mask mandate on Aug. 4 which he said also applies to Louisiana schools.
"We know better than to continue to believe that kids can't and don't get sick from COVID-19," Edwards said. "We have more children sick with COVID-19 than we have at any other time in the pandemic."
The state’s Attorney General Jeff Landry issued an opinion that BESE would have the final say on mask rules despite Edwards’ order.
Edwards argued that Landry's opinion is wrong.
"[Landry] is going out of his way to undermine public confidence in mitigation measures," Edwards said. "It is sad, it's regrettable. It's also irresponsible and it's dangerous."
District 74 Rep. Larry Frieman said Republican members of the state’s House of Representatives are also planning on sending a similar request to BESE.
“Liberty and freedom are precious commodities and we cannot allow federal, state or local government to infringe upon these sacred commodities,” Frieman said.
Louisiana is struggling with the record-setting fourth surge of COVID-19 driven by the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates. The state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation and is seeing one of the country's worst COVID-19 spikes per capita.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.