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Bill to ban mask orders for Ohio students introduced

State Rep. Mike Loychik introduced a bill to ban schools from mandating students wear face masks as the number of COVID-19 cases reached its highest point in nearly eight months.

“I’ve seen and heard constituent concerns across my district from these mask orders from public schools receiving public taxpayer dollars,” said Loychik, R-Bazetta, in a Wednesday written statement. “Through this bill, we are reiterating their opposition as it should be up to the discretion of parents on whether their kids should wear a mask or not.”

Loychik announced Aug. 12 that he was seeking co-sponsors for the bill.

His Republican colleagues in the Ohio House responded.

State Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, is the bill’s other main sponsor. Also, 24 other House Republicans – including state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield – signed on as co-sponsors.

That is considerably more co-sponsors than the six Loychik received for a bill introduced April 19 to rename Mosquito Lake State Park after former President Donald Trump.

Sixty-four Republicans serve in the 99-member House.

The mask-ban bill was formally introduced Tuesday.

There were 4,117 new COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday and 4,600 Wednesday in Ohio. The Wednesday number is the most cases in a day in Ohio since Jan. 29.

Loychik said his proposed bill would not prohibit faculty, staff and visitors from wearing masks or the school from imposing a mandate on them.

The bill’s language would prohibit school districts from requiring students to wear face masks on school premises or while riding a school bus to or from school. It would allow people to choose to wear a mask.

Democrats, who have 35 members in the state House, oppose the bill.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, recently said: “What do (Republicans) have against science? Maybe (Loychik) needs to sit through a seventh-grade science class again. We need to protect our children.”

Cutrona called Loychik’s bill “good legislation. The public and people with kids in K-12 want their children to go in-person and not be required to wear masks.”

Loychik’s bill comes as schools are either starting or are about to start the new academic year.

A number of Mahoning Valley school districts — including Youngstown, Warren, Girard, Niles, Liberty, Boardman and Lakeview — have mandated masks for students and staff while indoors.

Loychik lives in the Lakeview school district.

In an Aug. 18 letter to Lakeview Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor, Loychik wrote: “I’d like for you to take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of a kindergartner who is starting their educational career, which should be an exciting, positive moment, only to be forcibly masked with possibly an unclear understanding as to why. I saw that discontent not only with my son this morning while dropping him off for his first day of school, but I could also see it in the eyes of other children.”

He urged Taylor in the letter to re-evaluate the mask-mandate decision.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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