Louisiana’s AG Is Undermining Masks. His Favorite Principal Isn’t Afraid of Him.
Jeff Landry is advising Louisiana parents how to get around his governor’s mask mandate. The principal he’s cheered on is coming up with options to keep her kids safe.
Craven opportunism is all about timing, and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry made his move two hours before his state’s governor announced a mask mandate in response to a record increase in new COVID-19 cases, a distressing number of them involving children.
Gov. John Bel Edwards might be alarmed that Louisiana’s pediatric hospitals are all full, but not Landry. He proved that with an email he sent out to his whole department advising parents how to get their kids exempted from the governor’s impending mandate.
“Louisiana law offers broad and robust protections for students’ and parents’ religious and philosophical objections to certain state public health policies. I support your religious liberties and right to conscientiously object,” Landry wrote.
As reported by the Louisiana Illuminator, Landry even included two handy form letters, one for those claiming religious restrictions, the other for those lodging philosophical objections.
The letter for those taking the religious option reads in part:
“I do not consent to forcing a face covering on my child, who is created in the image of God. Masks lead to antisocial behaviors, interfere with religious commands to share God’s love with others, and interfere with relationships in contravention with the Bible.”
The letter also says, “I believe that Christians are called to communicate God’s words and message of love to the world. See Luke 9:2.” That bit of scripture says, “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Is Landry telling parents to take the position that the pandemic should be addressed with mass faith healing?
Parents are further advised to be prepared to resist the one actual solution—vaccines. They are to oppose any possible vaccine mandate as a “medical experiment” that originally involved fetal stem cells from aborted fetuses. The form letter for philosophical objections counsels parents to invoke federal disability laws and argue that masks entail “risks on my child’s mental and emotional health by hindering verbal and nonverbal communication.”
But the ultimate audience for Landry’s email was not likely the parents who work for him. He surely knew that it would quickly reach public attention and be forwarded into the raucous realm of anti-maskers. He would thereby appear to be pre-empting and challenging Edwards without really doing either.
Should any parents actually listen to Landry and claim a religious or philosophical exemption, educators can offer a solution promulgated by someone Landry himself cheered via Twitter last month when the Louisiana Department of Education named her the elementary school principal of the year.
Karen Robertson of West Leesville Elementary School has clear face shields ready for such students. And if that fails, the student can go virtual.
“We have some options for them,” she told The Daily Beast with the cheery tone of someone who always puts children before politics.
Masks or face shields, in person or virtual, the school as a whole will share a common mission.
“We say we’re going to stay safe, healthy, and well,” she said. “We put a smile on our face when we’re doing it.”
She added, “They feel that healthy, positive energy and they’re OK.”
She and her staff got a big test at the start of school last year. A hurricane tore off the roof of one of the building’s wings, leaving five teachers without a classroom. The whole community pitched in to repair the damage, and classes started just two weeks later.
“Husbands, fathers helped out, school board members helped out,” Robertson said. “Everyone banded together.”
Six weeks later, another hurricane hit.
“We got right back at it,” Robertson said.
After all that, the modifications for the pandemic seemed relatively minor. They put up clear plastic “sneeze guard” partitions in the classrooms and marked the floor to assist social distancing. And if the kids were not not all entirely thrilled to be wearing masks, they wore them. The teachers got small microphones to make it easier for students to hear them through masks.
And there was a guiding tenet through all of it.
“You have to make it fun,” Robertson said.
The school made it through last year largely unscathed by COVID-19. Robertson started the year with 130 students attending virtually. There were only 30 at the end as the danger seemed to fade. She was hoping there would be no need for masks this year.
But then the new variant hit. Vernon Parish, where the school is located, saw a 187 percent increase in new cases in two weeks. Much of the rest of the state saw similar hikes.
“The governor mandated masks, so we’re going to have masks again,” Robertson said. “This year, we’ve ‘been there, done that.’”
She will continue filling her students with that healthy, positive energy that makes them OK.
There remains the problem of the children who are not OK and fill Louisiana’s pediatric hospitals.
And Landry will demonstrate his craven sense of timing in other ways before he is done.