Hornblas: on school masks, stop passing the buck

Agency of Education admits it has no evidence for mask mandate

by Amy Hornblas

A open letter to Vermont Education Agency Secretary Daniel French and the Vermont State Board of Education:

Most schools in Vermont have required students and staff wear to face masks over their  noses and mouths at all times in order to attend school and participate in activities since 2020. Last spring, Secretary French urged schools to drop their mask requirements, yet schools in  Vermont are continuing to mask students and staff again this year through a confidential  process, using special education laws.  

Most people assume that if the Agency of Education is allowing schools to make children wear masks, they must have ample evidence to assure concerned parents that it is safe. However,  after three years of mask mandates in Vermont schools, we finally have this admission by the  Vermont Agency of Education: 

“…in response to your public records request, dated 1/9/2023, seeking ‘public records that contain any evidence the Agency of Education has used to determine that the use of face masks are safe for any age student, including students with special health needs, for both short and prolonged periods of time.’ After consulting with relevant Agency staff, I can and do certify pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 318(b)(4) that no records as specified by your request exist at this Agency.” 

If the AOE possess no evidence of safety, then there is only the evidence of harm to consider.  

For three years school administrators have been hearing complaints from parents, students,  and staff. Not only has there been public testimony at school board meetings, but complaints  have been received behind the scenes, as well. Through a FOIA request last spring, I  acquired all the email correspondences concerning masks to and from the superintendent of  the Caledonia Central Supervisory Union. The emails show that as soon as school began in  the fall of 2020, the district received complaints. One student received treatment at the  emergency room. Families pulled their children from school, and staff resigned.  “Compliance” issues arose, and staff were reprimanded. Many of the complaints were  identical with the types of hazards known to be caused by wearing PPE.  

The symptoms people are suffering in Vermont schools as a result of wearing masks are  precisely those described by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. In July of 2021 I  wrote an Open Letter to your agency referencing all of these resources, describing the basic  OSHA workplace protections which your agency is not granting to the children and staff in  your schools, and asking the Board to make a plan to assess and address the harms being  done.

Educators are not PPE experts, nor are they trained in the proper supervision of respiratory  protection, yet they feel they are empowered, even required, to mask themselves and others  under authority of the AOE. School board members are not only squelching efforts to raise  this issue at public meetings, but have also asked staff and board members not to read  correspondence from or respond to concerned members of the public. The AOE needs to  step up and provide clear guidance, based on the evidence, since the legal ramifications of  inaction continue to mount. There are numerous laws and regulations being violated, and it is only a matter of time before the courts recognize this. 

A recent Vermont court decision regarding the authority of school boards to impose mask  mandates on students cites Title 16 in the Vermont Statutes: 

[Local school boards] May take any action that is required for the sound administration of the school district.  

There doesn’t appear to be a legal definition for the word sound, but common definitions  include: unharmed, healthy, and a sound policy would consider long-term consequences  over all groups of people, not just the good intentions behind the policy. 

Whatever school boards decide about the soundness of using masks, the final decision as to  whether or not an action is sound lies with Secretary French, as section 16 VSA continues to  explain:  

“The Secretary, with the advice of the Attorney General, upon application of a school board, shall decide whether any action contemplated or taken by a school board under this subdivision is required for the sound administration of the district and is proper under this subdivision. The Secretary’s decision shall be final.” 

It is time to stop passing the buck. The responsibility for deciding what is sound policy in  Vermont schools lies with the Secretary of the AOE. Deferring to the Department of Health is  not acceptable. If the Department of Health possessed any evidence to support the use of  masks in schools, why haven’t they shared it by now? As the final decision-maker, this is  information Secretary French should already possess. 

Secretary French has already urged schools not to re-impose mask mandates, or follow CDC  guidance concerning community infection levels because they are irrelevant to our small  state. By these actions, he acknowledges that federal “guidance” does not supersede the  Secretary’s authority or responsibility. Now is the time to stand by those decisions based on  his own authority, and backed by the evidence.  

A thorough and transparent assessment of the use of masks in Vermont schools will assure  the public that his decisions on these matters are sound.  

The author is a licensed health educator living in central Vermont.

Categories: Commentary

6 replies »

  1. When are parents going to say enough is enough? When are parents going to get it? Pull your kids from these abusive dictators. Masks DO NOTHING to keep anyone from getting sick. Remember the ‘cloth’ ones. HOME SCHOOL, find teachers who agree with you and pay them to teach your children. It’s happening in all states. Take a vacation to another state say in the middle of the country or FL or KS and you will discover a FREE place to live.

  2. If a suspect can spit in a police officer’s face with no consequence or charges to the suspect…COVID is not dangerous. The very actions of the Chittenden County State’s Attorney is a direct contradiction to the State Health Department, Education Department, and the State Administration’s narrrative. Thank Sarah George for blowing it up in their faces. Use her actions as a prime example of why masks and shots are no longer necessary for anyone or any place. She did not prosecute a person openly spitting at another person. A direct threat to public health according to the State by which she is employed and directed to protect.

  3. The CDC has no evidence on file for ANY verification that viruses exist either… go figure (Louis Pasteur lied, and Antoine Bauchamp could not duplicate his ‘discoveries’…and the CDC knows this …but only if you send a public records request)…
    The snake oil salesmen and quacks are in charge of our health now…

    We get what we accept – and right now – ALL our rights to choose from housing to heating to health — are being removed.
    We’ll be accepting cannibalism next…

  4. On January 18th I presented testimony at the Agency of Education’s Board meeting outlining the relevant statutes which describe the Secretary and Board’s authority and obligation to address the use of masks in schools.

    A summary of my comments, and the relevant statutes I cited, is available at this link:

    The Open Letter to the AOE, and it’s references, can be found online here:

    Feel free to forward my Open Letter and testimony to your local board members, school administrators, teachers and staff.

    Thank you.
    ~ Amy