I live in Stanly County, and freedom-loving people in my community have been fighting for months to push our all-Republican school board to make masks optional in schools. Unfortunately, we have yet to effect change. But given that 108 of 115 North Carolina school districts still require masks in schools, I know we’re not alone.

Words matter

Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” And because words matter, it is past time we call school mask requirements what they are, child abuse.

According to the CDC, child abuse is “any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role that results in harm, the potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.”

Masks are harmful to children

Over the past 19 months of the pandemic, we have read a preponderance of testimonies, research, and data that proves masks both fail to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are harmful to children.

When wearing a mask, the carbon dioxide (CO2) our children exhale is largely trapped and therefore accumulates. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, “Exposure to CO2 can produce a variety of health effects. These may include headaches, dizziness, restlessness, a tingling or pins or needles feeling, difficulty breathing, sweating, tiredness, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, coma, asphyxia, and convulsions.”

Many of you may recall the viral video of a man demonstrating how fast dangerous levels of CO2 accumulated in his son’s mask at a New Hampshire school board meeting. Or perhaps you saw the study of German students showing CO2 average levels six times the recommended limit, with even higher levels for younger children. Or maybe you read about the parents in Florida that had a lab test of a set of worn masks only to find “that five masks were contaminated with bacteria, parasites, and fungi, including three with dangerous pathogenic and pneumonia-causing bacteria.”

In addition to the physical impacts of masks, Jon Sanders, Senior Fellow with the John Locke Foundation, recently wrote about the harm masks are causing to children’s psychological, social, developmental, and academic well-being as well. So, for those who think their child is not impacted by wearing a mask, how do you know? Just because they seem fine now does not mean they are not suffering long-term physical, psychological, social, or academic consequences.

When we asked local parents to share their mask testimonies over the summer, we received numerous stories like this that illustrate the real impacts on real children.

My youngest child’s grades have dropped and his focus is off because he’s too busy playing with his mask. My oldest one had increased anxiety and breathing problems. When I would pick him up from school, he would take his mask off and sound so congested and look pale and sick. After a couple of hours of not wearing his mask, the color returned to his face, but it would take a while for his voice to come back. Both of my children broke out with acne and my youngest had a rash on his upper lip. My youngest would also come home with a wet soaked mask which I think is more harmful because that can develop bacteria and he’s just breathing that in perpetually. I forgot about the constant headaches that they would have every single day. My oldest son was sent home at least once a week for headaches.

There is no excuse for child abuse

In short, requiring children to wear masks in schools is child abuse for which there is no justification. Many school board members across the state, like ours, say they must require masks to reduce the number of students quarantined and keep more kids in school. But rather than a reason to make masks mandatory, that is every reason to demand change from the health department. And if you keep more kids in school only to damage their physical, psychological, social, and academic well-being, what good have you accomplished? This is tyranny, and we must stop giving in to it.

Call to action

To help bring government-imposed child abuse to an end, I am asking all freedom-loving people across our state to do the following. First, call it what it is, child abuse. Second, if you can pull your kids out of public school, do it now. Third, whether you pull your kids out or not, rally with those in your community to every school board meeting and demand they end child abuse in public schools by making masks optional. According to a new state law, every school board must vote on masks at least once per month, so make your voice heard. Fourth, once you get the masks off, turn your attention to the local health department. Work with your county commissioners and health board to change or limit quarantine enforcement. Fifth, vote them all out. Anyone who refuses to end this, no matter their reason, has no business leading our schools or community.

Masks are not harmless like the lightning bug; they are the lightning. And we must end it now.

P. Jason Phibbs is an analytics professional for an investment firm and actively working to protect freedom in N.C.