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On-again, off-again mask mandates in Texas schools can cause anxiety in kids

“If we want our children to treat each other with kindness, we’ve got to do the same thing,” said Frisco pediatrician Dr. Seth Kaplan.

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Masks were not on the agenda at Monday night’s meetings of the school boards of Allen or Frisco ISDs.

But parents on both sides of the issue still showed up in force.

“I want my son to see how you go out and advocate strongly for positions that you believe are important to you,” said Paige Mebane, whose 6-year-old son attends Allen schools.

Mebane and others who want Allen to institute a mask requirement stood on one side of the front door of the building where Allen school board members met.

RELATED: Group of Allen parents file federal class action suit against school district over COVID measures

People who support Allen’s policy of keeping masks optional stood on the other.

“Choice has to be left to the parent,” said Sam Abiog.

She said three of her kids have attended Allen schools.

Masks remain one of the most polarizing issues of the pandemic, and they stir up deep passion – especially in schools.

In some Texas districts, as litigation winds its way through various courts, mask policies have changed multiple times in just the first month of school.

Fort Worth ISD students began class on Monday with a mandate in place.

By the middle of the day, a judge had sided with parents who sued the district.

The mask mandate was off by the time school dismissed.

RELATED: Appellate court reinstates temporary injunction against Fort Worth ISD mask mandate as legal battle continues

The lack of consistency can raise kids’ anxiety, according to Dr. Seth Kaplan, a pediatrician in Frisco and immediate past president of the Texas Pediatric Society.

“That can certainly make things worse,” he said. “With messages that are constantly changing and with it just not being clear where all the adults are in the room, it can be very distressing to children.”

He said he’s seeing kids battling anxiety over the pandemic simply because of what adults around them are saying and doing.

Mebane said she sees concern in her own son.

RELATED: Will wearing masks matter if others don't? A North Texas pediatrician answers your questions as kids head back to school

“The hardest thing in the world is when he comes home and says, ‘Mommy, the adults at my school don’t want to take care of me,’” she said.

She’s taught her son to wear a mask to help take care of other people, she said.

Now, he asks: “I wear my mask to take care of them. Why won’t the adults take care of me?”

But other parents believe deeply in a family’s right to choose what works best for them.

“We understand that every family is different,” Abiog said.

“If Allen ISD says you have mask choice and you as a family want to wear a mask…you have that choice.”

Kaplan said it is critical for parents on both sides of the masking issue to model good behavior by respectfully voicing their opinion and finding ways to agreeably disagree.

He worries there hasn’t been enough of that during the course of the pandemic.

“If we want our children to treat each other with kindness, we’ve got to do the same thing,” Kaplan said.

“Just take a deep breath and think through how treating each other with kindness and respect can help us get closer to normal a lot faster than we’re going now.”

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