Maryland’s schools were among the last in the country to return to in-person instruction, and public school enrollment in Maryland’s largest county dropped in the wake of the pandemic, with many parents opting to homeschool or to enroll their children in private schools.
Dawn Iannaco-Hahn, MS, LCPC, whose older son attends a Catholic school in Gaithersburg, was one of those parents. While she is happy her child is in school, she told CNA that she believes the archdiocese is engaging in “virtue signaling” with its dedication to masks.
Iannaco-Hahn, who described herself as a “huge proponent of public schools,” moved her son to a private school in December 2020 after it became clear that his public school would not set a date to re-open.
“He was in public school and he has an IEP, and they were not meeting his needs. Like not even a tiny bit,” she said. “They weren't doing any of his accommodations, because you can’t (do them) on a screen.”
While she said she has been happy that her child is in a physical school building, her son continues to be unhappy with the requirement to wear a mask.
“I'm like ‘just put your mask on and suck it up for now because I need you to be in a building learning,’” she said.
Long-term masking, she said, is detrimental to children.
“As a mental health therapist, I see how this is affecting my own children. I know how it's affecting, you know, children that I see in my job. And it's time to make it a choice at this point,” she said. The number of children she sees at her job who have been referred to speech therapy has increased dramatically.
What’s more, “these kids don't know how to read faces,” she told CNA. “These kids are lacking the ability to read nonverbal communication based on facial expressions because you know, the whole bottom half of everybody's face is cut off.”
In recent weeks, Iannaco-Hahn has testified against mandatory masking at the board of education. She told CNA that she wants it known that she is fully in support of her sons’ teachers – both at the Catholic and public schools – but that changes need to be made for the well-being of children.
“People are always trying to twist my words and, you know, call me this, that and the other,” she said. “But for me, you can call me whatever you want and I'm gonna wear it as a badge of honor, because I will do anything and everything to advocate for my kids. And if that makes me a bad person, then so be it.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“I just think it makes me a parent,” she said.
Others cited the practical issues with forcing a young child to mask all day, as well as the disparity between mandates for children and adults.
“My youngest child has a rash all the time from his mask and cries about wearing it,” Holly Morrison and Jesse Sherrett wrote to CNA. “His ability to learn language and social skills is being undermined by this illogical measure.”
Morrison and Sherrett are the parents of three children aged 5 to 10-years old who attend Blessed Sacrament School.
They pointed out the hypocrisy of their children being forced to wear masks at school while “adults are free to drink at bars with strangers for hours mask free.” In some schools in the archdiocese, children are required to wear masks outside during recess.
“This asymmetry is illogical particularly when we know that Covid does not pose any greater risk for our children than the seasonal flu,” they told CNA.