Masks Now Optional at D.C. Catholic Schools | National Review

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser testifies at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the D.C. statehood bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Pool via Reuters)

Earlier this week, I wrote about the efforts of the Alliance Defending Freedom to end a mask mandate for Catholic schools in Washington, D.C. Catholic schools technically fall under the authority of the Archdiocese of Washington, which last month instituted a mask-optional policy. But they remained legally beholden to the D.C. government’s mandate. This meant that Catholic schools in the parts of Maryland in the archdiocese no longer required masks, while those just across the border in the District did — a ridiculous situation.

Incoherence abounded, in fact: As of last Monday, churches no longer had a mask requirement, making schools the outlier, and comparable secular activities didn’t either. This last fact led ADF to make an argument that the policy was a First Amendment violation, with religious exercise treated with undue harshness by the mandate. ADF’s case also made note of the social, educational, and physical harms of continued mask-wearing.

Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner reports that, in the face of formal legal action, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser has folded (somewhat):

It was perfectly fine for 20-somethings to go unmasked on a packed dance floor at Cafe Citron. But a 6-year-old sitting at a school desk at Sacred Heart School was considered a public health risk if her face was uncovered.

That was the logic underlying the February mask rule issued by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Catholic school parents sued Bowser on Tuesday to correct this idiocy. That same day, Bowser backed down, dropping her school mask mandate.

While the mandate is no longer in force, masks aren’t going to disappear from schools just yet. Washington-area publication DCist notes:

D.C. Health lifted its indoor mask mandate for schools on Tuesday, shifting the decision to require face coverings in schools – or not – to education leaders.

The updated guidance does not necessarily mean students in the District will immediately be able to attend school without a mask. D.C. Public Schools, the city’s traditional school system, and individual charter operators may still choose to maintain their mandates.

D.C Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said in a statement the 51,000-student school system will keep its mandate for the time being. Ferebee said the district will engage with the Washington Teachers’ Union and other groups representing school workers before moving forward with any decisions.

So the madness may continue, to some degree. But Catholic schools need no longer be party to it.

Jack Butler is submissions editor at National Review Online.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.