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EL DORADO HILLS, California (LifeSiteNews) — Hundreds of students walked out of a California high school Tuesday in protest of the district’s delay in lifting mask mandates, even as Democrats nationwide have begun abandoning the policy.

The Washington Examiner reports that the walkout of Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills “was a homegrown thing between the parents and then the kids working together to get everyone on board,” according to area parent Jennifer Yoder, after students were dismissed for showing up to school unmasked. “It just kept growing and growing. And then they eventually just got up and left those classrooms and ran outside and started their protest.”

Later Tuesday, the El Dorado Hills Unified High School District sent parents a letter announcing it was “changing our masking enforcement protocols. The enforcement of masking will be done by educating students and asking them to mask but no further actions of exclusion from class will be taken … Moving forward students will not be physically removed from the classroom or receive a discipline consequence to prevent further exclusionary learning loss.”

“We are caught in the middle of a very difficult and progressively escalating situation where we acknowledge our obligation to comply with State and California Department of Public Health mandates and our actual ability to enforce those mandates,” the district claims.

Masking has been a source of frustration throughout the COVID-19 crisis, but tensions were intensified in California this month when state Health & Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced a two-week delay in an expected end to the school mask mandate, punting it to February 28.

Available evidence suggests that masks have played little, if any, role in reducing COVID-19’s spread across the United States, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) September 2020 acknowledgement that masks cannot be counted on to keep out COVID when spending 15 minutes or longer within six feet of someone, or a May 2020 study published by CDC’s peer-reviewed journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.”

Last May, another study found that, though mandates effectively increased mask use, that usage did not yield the expected benefits: “mask mandates and use (were) not associated with lower SARS-CoV-2 spread among U.S. states” from March 2020 to March 2021. In fact, the researchers found the results to be a net negative, with masks increasing “dehydration … headaches and sweating and decreas[ing] cognitive precision,” and interfering with communication, as well as impairing social learning among children.

“The potential educational harms of mandatory-masking policies are much more firmly established, at least at this point, than their possible benefits in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools,” University of California-San Francisco epidemiologist Professor Vinay Prasad wrote in September. “Early childhood is a crucial period when humans develop cultural, language, and social skills, including the ability to detect emotion on other people’s faces. Social interactions with friends, parents, and caregivers are integral to fostering children’s growth and well-being.”

Only seven states (plus the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories) still have statewide mask mandates. Numerous left-wing figures have claimed that evolving scientific knowledge has justified the change, but critics suspect the real deciding factor was internal polling, such as that conducted by New Jersey Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy’s team, indicating that forced masking is deeply unpopular.

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