Why are some parents in Switzerland ‘outraged’ about mask requirement in schools?

Why are some parents in Switzerland ‘outraged’ about mask requirement in schools?
Masks are compulsory, even if parents don't agree. Photo by AFP
Masks are obligatory in secondary and vocational schools in the Swiss cantons of Lucerne and Schaffhausen. However, some parents oppose this rule.

Classes in Lucerne are resuming on Monday, and masks are compulsory.

But according to media reports, a group of 60 parents wrote a letter to the canton’s education authorities, expressing their “outrage” over the mask rule.

They claim that face masks are a burden for the students because “they are actually intended and designed for professional use in the healthcare sector”.

“In contrast to students, the medical staff use the masks depending on the situation and are trained in their correct use”, the parents wrote.

Lucerne's education director Marcel Schwerzmann replied that schools want to ensure “as much face-to-face teaching and normality as possible”, and use of masks enables this process.

He also denied the parents’ contention that masks are “an attack on human dignity”.

Aldo Magno, the head of Lucerne’s cantonal department for high school education, said that pupils who can't wear masks can petition the school administration.

“If there is a medical reason, the permission would be granted, but simply the assertion that the mask requirement is a violation of human rights” would not be taken into consideration, he said.

“However, I don't think that many students will oppose the way these parents do”, Magno added.

READ MORE: These Swiss cantons have made masks compulsory in schools

'Children not breathing enough fresh air'

The mask requirement has been met with resistance in other regions as well. 

Christian Amsler, the education director for the canton of Schaffhausen said some parents are concerned “that their child could not breathe enough fresh air”.

Other parents argue that masks are problematic from a purely visual point of view.

“If everyone is suddenly walking around in masks, it conveys a sense of gloom and doom,” they said.

According to Amsler, the schools responded to each parent with a form letter, saying that the masks ensure classes would not have to be shut down if positive cases occur.

“The worst thing for school operations would be another lockdown with a return to distance learning over a long period of time,” he noted.

Schools have re-opened in 22 cantons between August 10th and August 17th.

Masks are compulsory in secondary and vocational schools in Bern, Jura, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Schaffhausen, and Zürich.

In the other five cantons masks must be worn if a distance of 1.5 metres between students and teachers can't be maintained.

Geneva and Vaud schools will start on August 24th, followed by Fribourg on the 27th and Ticino on the 31st.

All four cantons will have the mask requirement in place. 


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