More than 100 teachers, parents and students protested outside the United Federation of Teachers’ headquarters in Lower Manhattan Saturday, demanding freedom from wearing masks in schools.
Among the speakers was Jenna Miller, an 11-year-old student from Saugerties, NY, who was suspended from her elementary school last week because she refused to wear a mask in class.
Every time I tried pulling my mask down to get a breath of fresh air, I was constantly yelled at by my teacher,” said Miller, adding that she experienced headaches and nosebleeds from wearing a mask in high heat inside her classroom. “When I said that I couldn’t breathe, I was sent to the nurse’s office. After the nurse checked me over, she said I was fine. Then, she told me I could either put a mask back on and go to class, or get sent home because I was not following school policy. I told her to call my mom, and I went home.”
Miller, a BMX racer and hockey player, found that other students at the Cahill Elementary School were suffering from the same problems and demanded the right to take off their masks.
The demonstration was organized by New York Teachers for Choice, a group of teachers and parents who are protesting for freedom of choice when it comes to wearing masks and vaccinations against the coronavirus.
“We’re pushing back on the infringement of rights ongoing in our schools,” said Michael Kane, one of the founders of the group and a special education teacher in Queens. “Our official position is that people should be able to make their own choices regarding masks and vaccines. We have teachers who don’t want to be vaccinated and the UFT is trying to force them.”
At the demonstration, participants shouted “No forced shots, no forced tests, no forced masks!”
Miller said she understands the dangers of COVID-19 because her father was in the hospital for a week with the virus. But she said she did not understand why people can now be mask-free in restaurants and at summer camps but needed to wear them at school.
“In conclusion, just because someone tells you something doesn’t mean it’s the truth,” Miller told the crowd. “Just because you feel you need to do something that goes against the “rules” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re wrong. If you feel something is wrong, speak up. Don’t be afraid of being ‘canceled.’”