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Protests held at local schools as mask mandate goes into effect

WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. — Protests over Pennsylvania’s mask mandate for schools were held Tuesday morning at several local schools, including Penn Trafford and Greater Latrobe Senior high schools.

>>STORY: Masks required in Pennsylvania schools starting Tuesday

At Greater Latrobe Senior High School, a group of about 40 students and parents gathered to make their opinions known, carrying a sign that said, “Don’t mask my freedom.” People both for and against the mandate showed up.

“It’s my senior year. I feel like I’ve wasted most of my high school career. I really just want to have a taste of normalcy before I leave Latrobe,” Spencer Bowman, a student at Greater Latrobe Senior High School, said.

Ninth grader Grace Navarre said the mandate is holding students back.

“These masks are holding us back from what we want to do everyday. It’s distracting, it gives people anxiety, we can’t breathe, how are we supposed to focus on school work when we can’t do anything?” she said.

Cynthia Sarp, a parent and a nurse, is in favor of the mandate.

“I work on a COVID floor in the hospital and if people would see how much these patients are suffering, I would much rather see my daughter wear a mask than watch her suffering, struggling to breathe in the hospital,” Sarp said.

Sarp said she does not see what the school districts have to do with it since it’s a state mandate.

“I’m not against protests, I think children have a right to protest, but what they’re protesting is ridiculous. First of all, it’s a governor mandate, it has nothing to do with the school district. I just don’t get it or understand,” she said.

Outside Penn Trafford High School, about 70 students and parents rallied.

The mandate, which Gov. Tom Wolf announced last week, went into effect Tuesday. It requires masks to be worn in K-12 schools. The administration will revisit the school mask mandate the first week of October.