NC House Passes Free the Smiles Act in a veto-proof, bipartisan vote, returning student masking decisions to parents
See Senate Bill 183 and the votes at this LINK
The North Carolina House has passed the Free the Smiles Act in a veto-proof, bipartisan vote of 76-42. The bill will give parents the right to opt-out of student mask mandates for their children. North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said, “All health care decisions for our students belong with their parents, not with politicians or bureaucrats. No one cares about these children more than their parents, and no one is better suited to make these decisions.” He continued, “This action is long overdue. While politicians have failed to roll back these onerous restrictions that have resulted in learning loss, young children have paid the heaviest price for ongoing mandates and restrictions that are simply not based on science or current data.”
Free the Smiles puts mask decision in parents’ hands
Lawmakers in the state Senate and House Thursday afternoon passed the Free the Smiles Act (S.B. 173) which would make masks in public schools optional across the state and at the discretion of individual families. “This is a matter of government policy and government interest, but what it boils down to,” Rep. David Rogers (R-Rutherford) said, “government needs to properly inform the people so that the people can make good decisions about their own health, their own families and their own children.” There was a bit of back-and-forth and a brief delay when representatives realized that two versions of the bill were circulating. The first draft dictated that the law would be in effect only for the current school year. The modification removed that sunset clause.
“The data is clear. The harm that we’re doing to our children from a mental health perspective is overwhelming,” said Rep. David Willis, a Union County Republican, during floor debate on the bill Wednesday. Willis introduced the new version of SB 173 on Monday and said it’s important that North Carolina students return to a mask-free school environment as soon as possible. “It’s time to give them the opportunity to take off the masks, to return to class as normal, and to get into a position where they can start to rebuild the confidence and the camaraderie that they’ve had with their friends, with their classmates, and with their teachers, and to rebuild those relationships, to overcome the obstacles that we have put on them over the past year,” Willis said. Rep. Susan Fisher, the House Democratic whip, pushed back against the bill, saying that the threat of the pandemic was not over and freeing schools from complying with the mask mandate was dangerous. “Of course, we are concerned about the mental health of our students,” Fisher said.