On the day when New York City public schools lifted mask mandates for students over five years of age, parents, teachers and health care advocates rallied outside City Hall on March 7 to condemn the continued mask mandate for students under five years of age.
The rally, organized by the group Protect Our Toddlers, also presented a lawsuit filed by attorney Michael Chessa in the New York County Supreme Court challenging the city’s decision to continue to enforce the mandate for younger children. The mask mandate remains in place for the one demographic for whom a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be approved by the FDA — which denies them the same protection to vaccinated older children and adults.
“The toddler mask mandate is anti-science, anti-child and anti-parent — but not only that, it’s against the law,” Chessa claimed. “This week, I’ll be filing a petition in New York County State Supreme Court on behalf of concerned parents challenging the constitutionality of the city’s mask mandates focused on the most recent toddler mask mandate.”
The lawsuit challenges the city’s authority to make decisions regarding emergency health orders by executive decree — something which happened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect New Yorkers from infection. The plaintiffs believe that the city’s exercise of that authority to require masking for only children in daycare and preschool settings – including 3K and Pre-K programs – is “arbitrary and capricious.”
An individual with the mayor’s office told amNew York that the city law department would review the case once filed and once the office is served.
The group believes that children ages 2-5 who attend daycare, 3-K and Pre-K are at low-risk for serious illness caused by the COVID-19 virus — even though there have been cases of unvaccinated children becoming seriously ill to COVID.
“Masking toddlers hurts toddlers and protects no one,” said Maud Maron, Public school parent, School Leadership Team Member, and former CEC 2 President. “They are the least at risk from Covid and most hurt from the developmental delays we have all seen from extended masking. Our youngest students need to see faces, and be seen by each other. We must unmask our youngest.”
Advocates and members of Protect Our Toddlers also say that Mayor Eric Adams has continued to cite hospitalization data for children ages 0-4 that they say is skewed by the data from the 0-1 age group.
“As a special education teacher, who works with young children with autism, I’ve seen the profoundly negative effects mask-wearing has had on speech, socialization, and developmental skills,” said Talia Croguennec, a special education teacher and mother. “I am heartbroken that Adams is insisting that young children are still required to wear masks, whereas the rest of the City can go mask free. In addition, I have a young daughter who has spent nearly her entire education in a mask; her father can go to the office mask-free, but she is required to wear one.”
During a press conference on March 4, Mayor Adams responded to questions regarding the subject of children under five still being required to adhere to the mask mandate.
“When you look at those under [the age of] five, they were more likely to be hospitalized,” said Adams. “People wanted to say ‘let’s lift [the mandate] across the board’, but that’s not what the science was showing us. I know some people are concerned, I would rather people complain against me than losing our babies in our city.”