Conservative groups are funding protests against “critical race theory.” Now we learn, thanks to investigative reporting by the Washington Post, that the rightwing libertarian Koch network is funding parent protests against mask mandates. Billionaire Charles Koch has blood on his hands by supporting and encouraging parent opposition to mask mandates in schools.

Isaac Stanley-Becker writes in the Post:

The letter sounds passionate and personal.
It is motivated, the author explains, by a desire to “speak up for what is best for my kids.” And it fervently conveys the author’s feelings to school leaders: “I do not believe little kids should be forced to wear masks, and I urge you to adopt a policy that allows parental choice on this matter for the upcoming school year.”

But the heartfelt appeal is not the product of a grass roots groundswell. Rather, it is a template drafted and circulated this week within a conservative network built on the scaffolding of the Koch fortune and the largesse of other GOP megadonors.

That makes the document, which was obtained by The Washington Post, the latest salvo in an inflamed debate over mask requirements in schools, which have become the epicenter of partisan battles over everything from gender identity to critical race theory. The political melee engulfing educators has complicated efforts to reopen schools safely during a new wave of the virus brought on by the highly transmissible delta variant.

The document offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a well-financed conservative campaign to undermine regulations that health authorities say are necessary to contain the coronavirus. The frustration of many parents who want a greater say is deeply felt, school superintendents say. But their anger is also being fueled by organized activists whose influence is ordinarily veiled.

Conservative groups are trying to throw public schools into turmoil and discredit them. We have yet to see them inveighing against vaccines for polio, smallpox, measles, etc. If children get COVID, are hospitalized, and worse, this is the result of their cynical effort to make Public schools unsafe and expose children to danger.

If only it were possible to hold them accountable for endangering other people’s children.

This is the letter that the conservative Independent Women’s Forum has circulated:

Dear _____: NAME is excited to be joining NAME OF SCHOOL this year. But I want to share my thoughts on a topic I feel strongly about: masks on kids. I do not believe little kids should be forced to wear masks, and I urge you to adopt a policy that allows parental choice on this matter for the upcoming school year. I know you have to make a lot of tough decisions and you can’t please everyone. I have a world of respect for you and I am aware that some in the community may not agree with my perspective. It’s my view that emotion and politics (from both sides!) have driven alot of policy choices during the pandemic at nearly every level of government… that’s too bad. I’ll try to be brief but here are a few points that summarize my reasons for not supporting mandatory masks for young children:

●It’s a great blessing that COVID doesn’t pose as serious a health risk to children as it does to adults. Critically, young kids do not significantly spread COVID either. Furthermore, now that the adults in our community (teachers, school staff, parents and family members) have had a chance to get vaccinated, the risk to adults of serious illness from COVID infection is even smaller.

A study out of the UK released last week proved—once again—what we’ve known for more than a year:Kids transmit the coronavirus at a much lower rate than do adults. Epidemiologist Shamez Ladhani, who led the study, found that children “aren’t taking [the virus] home and then transferring it to the community. These kids have very little capacity to infect household members.”

●We do not yet know enough about the potential downside of mask-wearing for young children. I think you could make a case for or against masking kids (which is why I support parents making the choice either way), but if masking is to be mandated, the onus is on those putting a mandate in place to show that masking passes a risk-benefit analysis. This area merits more study, but common sense tells us that covering the face can come with problems.

Masking kids is associated with: increases in anxiety and depression;decreases in communication and socialization skill development; increases in headaches, face rashes and redness, and impaired facial recognition; and increases in tooth decay.