Personal Choice or Political Statement?


Signs outside the entrances alert students of masking policies. CT Post

On the morning of April 4th students walked into school nervously, masks stuffed in their back pockets.  As CHS makes the transition to mask-optional, students and teachers alike were relieved to see the faces of their classmates, now two years older.  This decision was met with much anticipation, but also apprehension. Sophomore Sidra Major says that “[her choice] was heavily also influenced by the fear of assumptions made by my peers, I didn’t want my choice to be seen as a political movement.”  

Clayton High School was the last school locally to rescind the mask mandate, and the transition, according to Major, sparked a lot of “discussion in class, about the nuance and like, perspective of wearing a mask.”  Before this discussion, Major intended to continue to wear her mask, but ultimately decided to go without it.  Major reaffirms that her “choice was very much based on science, and the rates and statistics of our society, St. Louis, and Clayton.”  

The decision to wear or not wear a mask is one everyone has different reasoning for, some feeling more strongly than others.  Many students around CHS feared judgment from their peers, but not much outright confrontation seemed to take place.  “Yeah, I don’t think people really care,” says Major.  For the most part, it seems like everyone has been respectful and the transition has gone smoothly.  “Especially with the announcement Gutchewsky made that morning about, you know, we support your decision no matter what it is, Clayton has done a really good job,”  says sophomore Charlie Meyers.  

The nuance of this issue lies in the fact that not everyone views having choosing to wear a mask or not as an individual choice, rather something one does to benefit the collective  Despite how politicized masks have become over the course of the pandemic in the United States, many Eastern countries routinely wear masks due to bad air quality, common colds, or just comfort.  Victoria Fan, a CHS junior, has continued to wear a mask, saying “masks don’t really bother me. I feel like it’s still pretty safe to wear a mask, even though I understand now we have a pretty low transmission rate. And we’ve got a lot of masks in our house, so why not just use them?”  Although their mask-wearing decisions are different, Fan, like Major, has faced no pressure regarding her choice to continue wearing a mask.  “I feel like there’s no pressure to not wear a mask,” Fan says. “ Like, you can wear a mask. It’s fine, everyone kind of just avoids talking about it.”

Luckily, it seems that the transition to mask-optional has gone pretty smoothly for CHS.  This same issue has lit fires in school board meetings across the country, and not every district has had this laissez-faire attitude.  The question at the pinnacle of this argument still remains: at this point in the pandemic is wearing a mask a personal choice or a political statement.