Children Without Masks Will Be Segregated, Use Separate Entrances: Report

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 31: Pupils at Rosshall Academy wear face coverings as it becomes mandatory in corridors and communal areas on August 31, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. New rules starting today require children over 12 to wear face coverings in corridors and other communal areas in schools in Scotland. …
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A parent has described to a major British newspaper the prospect of a “mask apartheid” when schools reopen next week, after some educators have determined that while they cannot legally force children to wear masks, they will be segregated from their peers.

The Conservative Party government has recommended that secondary school pupils (aged 11 to 18) wear masks in areas of schools where they are not able to socially distance, such as in classrooms and other confined spaces where children cannot keep two metres (six feet) apart.

However, despite face coverings for pupils not being mandatory, parents have told The Telegraph that they have been notified if their children do not wear them, they will be forced to sit at the back of the class and even be segregated from their friends at lunch.

One school, The Stonehenge School in Amesbury, Wiltshire, also appeared to emotionally blackmail parents and children by saying that “their peers may not wish to sit with or work with them” if pupils aren’t wearing masks. Non-compliant children at The Stonehenge School would also be “asked to sit near open doors or windows”.

Sources speaking to the newspaper outlined that other punishments include children being forced to go through a separate entrance and being barred from group class activities such as PE and drama and after-school clubs.

The Department for Education has said that children must not be “denied education” if they refuse to wear masks; however, some schools have allegedly threatened to send pupils home to get a mask or even expel mask refusers, on the grounds that uncovered children “risk” the safety of staff members.

One parent told The Telegraph that the plans represented a “mask apartheid”, explaining: “If you start treating children differently, it will impact on their ability to learn. The Government needs to be very clear that no pupils should be discriminated against in this way.”

Allyson Pollock, Clinical Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, said there is “no evidence” that wearing masks in class stops transmission and criticised the “coercion” of children. She also warned of the “other harms are emerging as a result – psychological trauma, isolation, segregation stigmatising children”, condemning schools for institutionalising “a form of abuse and harassment and intimidation of children and parents”.

Baronness Fox of Buckley, who has condemned the government for recommending masks in classrooms, said of the report that the proposed measures were  “creating totally unnecessary and divisive stress for all. No attempt to even justify them via evidence/efficacy — just a defensive emphasis [the guidance] will be reviewed at Easter. In the meantime, classrooms are not safer, but more alienating.”

The report follows another by the same publication which revealed claims that schools are “blackmailing” parents into consenting to have their children tested for coronavirus in the next few weeks, allegedly being told they would be banned from the classroom otherwise.

The Telegraph obtained a copy of the letter sent to parents of children at Hornchurch High School in Havering, in which headteacher Val Mason wrote: “If you do not provide consent your child will not be permitted to return to face-to-face lessons. They will instead be required to complete their work remotely whilst being accommodated on the school site in a separate space.”

A parent told the newspaper: “This is coercion bordering on blackmail. I have printed off the Government guidance and it very clearly says it should be voluntary.”

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