State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said Thursday night the state Department of Education can only "strongly recommend" that public school students wear face masks but cannot mandate their use.
"We have tried to provide systems with a place to begin their planning and that at a minimum grades three and above be in a mask," Brumley said.
He said the recommendation to local school districts is based on the advice of officials of the Louisiana Department of Health and others.
"This is only a strong recommendation for school systems to consider," Brumley said.
The issue surfaced during a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on the reopening of public schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Brumley and Courtney Phillips, secretary for the Louisiana Department of Health, spent 90 minutes discussing the issue and fielding questions from committee members and other lawmakers.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, called the gathering a town hall meeting on the topic.
Earlier in the day the state Department of Education released guidelines for schools preparing to reopen, including the need for students in grades three and above as well as adults to wear face masks while in school.
Public school students in the third grade and older along with adults should wear face masks "to the maximum extent possible" when schools reo…
Sen. Beth Mizell, a Franklinton Republican and committee member who usually wears a mask herself, said she does not have to be convinced about the merits of face coverings.
But she added, "We are America. People are very independent. You are bucking that thought, that as independent Americans they do what they want for their child."
"All the paperwork in the world is one thing," Mizell said. "As my colleague said implementation is going to be the challenge."
State education leaders are finalizing guidelines for the reopening of public schools amid thorny questions on whether students will be expect…
She added, "You have a task in front of you. I don't know how much wiggle room you are giving yourself if you are mandating it."
Brumley noted that he is a former school principal and realizes it is hard to ensure boys keep their shirts tucked in, no less follow face mask rules.
He said local educators may need to approach masks the way they enforce school uniform rules, which have also sparked controversy.
Brumley told reporters Thursday he is encouraging officials in all 70 school systems to offer distance learning for families who opt not to return to classrooms because of masks or other issues.
Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley laid out the framework on Thursday of what the state's public schools will have to do to sa…