Vaccine and mask mandates for children in Head Start programs may soon be a thing of the past if two House Republicans have anything to say about it.
Reps. Dave Joyce of Ohio and Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa introduced a resolution Thursday targeting mandates for children in the federally funded programs, which promote school preparedness for children in low-income families.
"Now that our schools have begun in-person learning, we should not be enforcing unnecessary mask mandates on those with the least likely chance of getting severely ill from COVID-19," Miller-Meeks said. "Children in Head Start programs are in some of the most economically vulnerable populations and need our support."
Joyce said that children as young as 2 years old should not be forced to wear face masks by the federal government on the taxpayer's dime.
"If parents or individual Head Start programs want to mask themselves or their kids, they have every right to do so," he said. "But the federal government should not insert itself into that decision-making process, especially when children are the least at risk for COVID-19 but the most likely to suffer developmental setbacks from prolonged masking."
If it passes, the Republicans' measure would allow Congress to nullify the Department of Health and Human Services' interim final rule that enforces the mandates.
According to Joyce's office, in Ohio alone, there are approximately 34,000 infants and toddlers enrolled in a Head Start program.
The resolution comes as a Florida judge earlier this week vacated the Biden administration's federal public transportation mask mandate, eliciting cheers from some and worry from others.
The Department of Justice said Wednesday that it intends to appeal the ruling in a bid to have the mandate reinstated.
Twenty-four states sued the federal government last year over the mandates for children enrolled in the programs, calling them "unlawful," "arbitrary and capricious."
Studies conducted throughout the pandemic have shown that face masks have devastating effects on learning for young children.
The early years are when children learn to recognize facial cues, understand emotions, and speak and express themselves. Prolonged masking directly undermines a child's early development skills, such as attachment, facial processing, and socioemotional processing, which can set them back for the rest of their life.
Low-income students, students living in rural communities, and minority students are already the most likely to be negatively impacted by COVID-era mandates and lockdowns, Joyce's office said, with the Head Start mandates only worsening the problem.
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