Student Mask Debate Can Strengthen Relationships

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Heart of Illinois abc

The to mask or not to mask debate provides students opportunity for dialogue and acceptance.

Lexus Gruszka, Scribe Reporter

As a student returning to school after the mask mandate ended, I was frightened of the uncertainty that was to come. I never intended to stereotype based on whether others were or weren’t wearing a mask, but I worried about feeling pressure from others based on beliefs. 

 The CDC first recommended masks on April 3rd, 2020 and following shortly after, the state of Illinois mandated the wearing of masks on May 1st of 2020.  Since then, except during certain grace periods, masks have consistently been required in public places in the state of Illinois. In compliance with the state mandate, District 211’s priority is to maintain the “safety and health of all students and staff” while also giving students the opportunity to be flexible. 

We must end our political stereotyping in order to better understand each other. ”

— Lexus Gruszka

As of February 6th of 2022,  District 211, one of 140 school districts across Illinois per judicial ruling, cannot require students or staff to wear masks during the school day. Within the first weeks, some students seemed reluctant to change. Dirty looks and whispers were passed around in every direction.  Yet, as the dust began to settle from the mask update, the tone of the school shifted from hesitation to acceptance. Everybody is learning to respect each other’s opinions. Eventually, it was nice to see friend groups accept each other and their opinions but still get together and have fun. 

I also understand why many students choose to wear their masks, and I respect everyone’s choices on what they would like to do.  Ultimately, the lifting of the mask mandate has been beneficial to me. I feel that I communicate with my teachers and friends more effectively with my facial expressions, a main communication line.  

Unfortunately, early in the pandemic, masking became overly politicized. The continuing debate during the last two years has widened a cultural divide that shouldn’t exist. Everyone has a reason why they choose to wear or not wear a mask, and the decision doesn’t necessarily relate to a political party. We must end our political stereotyping in order to better understand each other. 

The mask debate is emblematic of other policies and discord that we will face in the future. Our lives are going to be filled with people that have a wide variety of differing political opinions and perspectives.  Therefore, it is vital that we, as students, learn to respect and work with people who hold different opinions.  Even though we may disagree, we can practice our ability to focus on the collective goal, learning to learn. 

Going forward, the more open students are with each other, the better the environment will continue to become for everyone involved. Being respectful of opinions in such a tense situation like this will take practice. However, accepting others will help us to grow and develop into rational and educated adults. 

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