Ann Arbor high school students walk out of class in protest over mask mandate
A small group of Ann Arbor high school students walked out of class on Monday to protest the district's COVID-19 mask mandate.
Soren Nielsen, a 17-year-old junior at Skyline High School who organized the walkout, said about 15 students left their first-hour class, removed their masks and walked outside the school, holding posters and handing out fliers asking the district to discontinue its policy.
"AAPS pledged to follow the science and CDC guidelines. They've refused to follow the guidance," Nielsen said. "Schools around us no longer have masking. What are they doing that we can't do?"
Nielsen said the students returned to class and there were no problems as school liaison officers stood by.
"I am done with the masking and I don't want to wear it," Nielsen said.
District spokesperson Andrew Cluley said the district respects and supports the First Amendment rights of students to raise their voices and express their thoughts.
"These expressions should occur in a way that doesn’t cause a disruption or interfere with the orderly conduct of learning or school activities, per district policy," Cluley said.
"In holding the health and safety of our students and staff, and sustaining full staffing for in-school learning as critical priorities, the AAPS will continue with universal masking," he said.
Debates on mask orders have caused dissension and debates across Michigan schools throughout the pandemic and at time Michigan counties have had mask mandates in place for K-12 schools. All Michigan counties have ended their emergency health orders on masks since cases dropped significantly from the most recent surge in January.
Washtenaw County rescinded its countywide mask mandate on Feb 28. Local school districts like Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Community Schools have enacted their own mask orders and some private schools have mask rules.
On March 5, Ypsilanti Community Schools performed two surveys — one for parents and the community and one for students and staff. The three-question surveys asked whether the district should begin voluntary masking on Monday, or require masking through the end of the school year in June, or require masking through summer programs.
A majority of parents and community members — 35.4% opted for masking through the end of the school year. A majority — 43.6% — of students and staff wanted voluntary masking.
The district decided to require masks throughout district buildings including buses until the end of the school year, saying it will reevaluate plans for the summer in June.
The state's largest district, Detroit Public Schools Community District, continues to require masks for students and staff.
"Yes, we are still masking indoors regardless of vaccination status," Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said. "We will review this week’s and next week’s infection rate numbers and if they remain low then we will lift the mask requirement."