Opinion Piece

Aleksandra Carney, Staff Writer

When the bells rang in the new school year, August 31, 2020, Pinkerton welcomed back over 1,500 students. Greeting friends and walking familiar campus paths, the bustling teens presented an air of normalcy. Closer observation would reveal two glaring differences: half the students were missing and those who were present wore masks. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing into the fall, the school’s dress code has undergone a major shift to ensure public safety. The Academy is now requiring all students and staff to wear face coverings while on campus.

Although the idea of mandated mask policies at local, state, and even federal levels has been a hot topic for debate, Pinkerton’s policy is non-negotiable. As a semi-private school, it has the right to set its own rules for student conduct, and that includes the addition of a mask to the school’s dress code. Private status aside, the famous court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), upheld students’ right to express themselves but never specified whether or not this right could prevent schools from enforcing uniforms, dress codes, or grooming requirements. In today’s world, a mask can now be considered part of a dress code, and refusing to wear one is not a form of self-expression, but rather a breach of student conduct. And for those who may argue that their rights are in jeopardy, health and safety rules typically have been upheld as constitutional based on the precedent established in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, a 1905 Supreme Court decision. When it comes down to it, a person’s “right to splatter yourself on a windshield” or in this case contract COVID must take a backseat to public health and safety.

However, even without court cases to back up the school’s decision, wearing a mask is simply a smart and responsible decision. Not only will it help protect the wearer from COVID, more importantly, it allows people to protect others. According to the CDC, “masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.” This is called source control. This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. It says a lot about the student body accepting the new mandate in stride and have adapted well to the changes COVID has brought in the world of education. 

Arunima Chaturvedi (’20) said that “I’ll admit it can be hard at times, especially when you have to walk all the way across campus and the mask restricts some breath. But if it means that we can prevent the virus from spreading, then it’s a sacrifice that everyone should make. Because in the end, the fact that we are still able to attend school is something I’m really grateful for.”

Chaturvedi is not alone. When asked, most students agreed that masks are necessary to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, and are the sole reason for their continued presence in school.

Aili Carney (’23) seemed confused as to why people would be against the mandate, arguing that wearing a mask “Is so unnoticeable. It’s good that we get to be in the school buildings while we can to do labs and stuff that can only be done in school.”

Her classmate Joey Buna agreed. “It’s not that hard to wear a mask. We need to do it so just do it.”

Even those students who find the rules surrounding masks annoying understand their importance.

Isabella Dineen said, “It’s not ideal in the slightest, and it’s annoying.” She also shared that she “gets that we have to do it. I actually haven’t seen a single student with their mask off except during lunch or outside away from people.”

Hopefully, as the school year continues, support for the mask mandate will remain steady, especially as the colder months approach, bringing flu season along with them. With the school preparing to return to the hybrid model after closing for two weeks, the community’s compliance of wearing masks and following health & safety measure will keep us all safe. And in school.