Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Fiery debate over mask mandate at schools, vaccines disrupts committee meeting

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BATON ROUGE – A fierce exchange over masks, vaccines and safety policies in schools led to multiple people being escorted out of a committee meeting at the capitol.

The House Committee on Health and Welfare scheduled the meeting to hear from health and education leaders concerning if the policies are needed. Before the discussion started, the committee chair asked everyone in attendance to wear a mask. Some refused and had to be lead out of the room.

While this happened, one woman shouted, “everyone take off your mask they can’t escort all of us out, take off your mask.”

There was a brief recess then a nearly 7-hour-long debate took place where people argued two opposite sides. Some wanted more safety protocols to be placed in schools, while others wanted fewer.

“The Governor mandated that I put [a mask] on my kids' face for seven hours a day. It’s child abuse it’s not right,” said Brandy Pou with an organization called ‘Unmask Our Kids Louisiana.’ “I believe in natural immunity, and everyone has to build natural immunity, and masking is not helping that.”

Others are against in-class learning for students because of health risks.

"Our most vulnerable population is our children, and they are relying on the leaders of parents, school leaders and teachers to keep their best interested in their health and safety at schools,” said Caleb Holmes with ‘Step Up Louisiana.’

Lawmakers heard from Dr. Joseph Kanter, the State Health Officer, on his opinion on these measures. He says the masks are needed at schools.

"I think a school district that did not proceed with their students and teachers masked would have massive amounts of outbreaks and big disruptions in their education,” said Dr. Kanter.

There was no vote at the meeting, but the discussion will continue. BESE will take up COVID policies at schools on Wednesday, including the mask mandate.


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