Michigan parents are divided on school mask mandates, poll finds


About 40% of school districts in Michigan have issued mask mandates. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • About 40% of school districts in Michigan have issued mask mandates.

Michigan parents are almost evenly divided on whether children should be required to wear masks in schools, according to a new poll.

About 49% of parents said they support mask mandates, while roughly 45% said they oppose them, according to a survey of 600 parents with children in public schools. The Glengariff Group poll was conducted Aug. 23-26 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

But opinions changed slightly when parents were asked whether they should decide if their children should wear masks. About 54% said the choice should be theirs, while 42% said all students should be mandated to wear masks.

Mask mandates in schools have spurred strong feelings from both sides.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has encouraged school districts to require masks but stopped short of issuing a mandate, leaving the decisions up to schools and county health departments.

About 40% of school districts in the state have issued mask mandates, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, impacting about half of the state's students.

In metro Detroit, Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties are requiring students and staff to wear masks, while Macomb County is not.

According to the survey, Democrats and urban and suburban parents are far more likely to support mask mandates than Republicans and rural parents. About 10% of Democrats oppose mask mandates, while 87% support them. Among Republicans, about 78% are against mask requirements and 18% support them.

In urban areas, 76% of parents support mask mandates. In suburban areas, 56% support them. In small-town areas, 39% support the mandates, and in rural areas, 23% do.

Leading health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control, recommend universal masking indoors as COVID-19 transmission remains a serious threat.

Nevertheless, mask mandates have prompted protests and complaints from angry parents. At a Birmingham Board of Education meeting last month, unruly anti-maskers booed and hurled insults at border members after they issued a mandate for face coverings for students and teachers. One man even flashed a Nazi salute and chanted “Heil Hitler.”

“School districts have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to protect the health and well-being of students while also working to ensure they have the best quality education experience, both inside the classroom and via virtual settings,” said Ken Gutman, president of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan, which commissioned the poll, and superintendent of Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. “We know the large role the community has in the success of our students, and we look forward to continuing to work together to support the academic, social, and emotional health of Michigan’s children. “

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