Ontario Parents Call for Return to Masking in Schools
(Ontario, Canada, November 9) — In September 2022, parents in Ontario formed Ontario School Safety (OSS), a group dedicated to ensuring safe, in-person schooling. OSS launched a Go Fund Me campaign to raise the necessary funds for a court challenge with the aim of securing evidence-based COVID-19 protections in Ontario schools. The current situation in Ontario’s schools and hospitals calls for an immediate change in Ontario’s approach to COVID-19. While the group continues to build their legal team and case, they are also calling on the government to respond immediately to the current crisis in Ontario’s schools and hospitals, with a return to masking and other protections that served to protect children at other times during the pandemic.
Pediatric hospitals in Ontario are in crisis due to a surge of children with respiratory infections needing inpatient care. Families are spending hours, and even days, in emergency departments hoping for a bed for their sick children. Emergency departments in some rural areas have been closed due to critical staffing shortages, leaving those communities without access to emergency healthcare. Desperate parents with sick children are turning to social media to source pediatric pain medications because store shelves are empty. There is growing evidence to suggest that immune dysregulation due to previous COVID-19 infections is allowing other viruses, like the flu and RSV, to cause serious illness in children.
While the government emphasizes how important it is for children to be in a physical classroom — something OSS parents agree with — students and teachers are missing many days of school due to illness leading to interruptions in learning and inconsistencies in the classroom. Children are recovering and returning to school, only to be infected by their classmates yet again — or are vulnerable to other viruses they would have easily fought off in the past, due to immune dysregulation caused by COVID-19 infections. Many families report having had one bug or another consistently since school began two months ago. Research also shows that the risk for long-term side effects, collectively referred to as “long COVID”, increases with each subsequent COVID-19 infection. This is not the safety and stability parents and teachers were promised by the provincial government.
Medical experts currently advise that the best way to relieve pressure from our healthcare system and provide stability for our schools would be a return to masking in shared public spaces, such as schools. An in-person education should not come at the cost of any child’s physical health. Ontario School Safety agrees with medical experts that now is the time to return to the same effective protections that will protect our children in the classroom. By minimizing infections in schools, we can reduce interruptions to in-person learning, and address the capacity problems in hospitals, including pediatric hospitals, immediately.
Ontario School Safety is a group of committed volunteers working to raise funds and awareness to make Ontario’s schools safer for all students, teachers, educational assistants, and administrators. The group includes physicians, lawyers, epidemiologists, educators, business owners, academics, and concerned parents who bring their expertise, skills, and passion to the project.
The primary goal of Ontario School Safety is to mount a court challenge that will demonstrate that the current government and school boards have failed in their duty to protect Ontario’s students during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and that COVID-19 protections are both necessary and required under the law.
The group has launched a Go Fund Me campaign to cover all legal and administrative fees that will arise as the case goes to trial. To date, the campaign has raised over $31,000 and has welcomed many new volunteers to the group. More and more people are joining their cause as they see first-hand what the removal of COVID-19 protections in schools has meant for the health of their children and the stability of both the education and healthcare systems in Ontario.
Ontario School Safety is also seeking to connect with families who believe that their experiences of inequity and hardship due to the lack of COVID-19 protections in Ontario’s schools might be relevant to the court challenge. The aim is to include the experiences of multiple plaintiffs as part of the case.
The Ontario School Safety group’s values and requests are based on current, evidence-based science and the group is advocating for appropriate and strategic masking strategies including mitigation measures for lunch periods, air quality standards that are transparent and actionable, and test-to-return strategies that ensure Covid is kept out of the classroom. These are the values with which they, and their legal team, are approaching the legal challenge.
The goal for the campaign has been set at $75,000. Once funds have been raised and the legal team has been finalized, this case will be filed before the courts as soon as possible. Ontario School Safety believes that Ontario’s students deserve safe and inclusive learning environments. The goal of Ontario School Safety is to achieve a return of COVID-19 protections for as long as the science and data indicate they are necessary so that all students can exercise their right to safely attend Ontario’s schools.