HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) — Kimberly Morehouse lives in a multigenerational household in Hillsboro. Her son goes to Liberty High School and told her some students refuse to put their mask on to comply with the COVID-19 mandate, even when their teachers told them to.
Her son said “it’s normal” to see students wearing their masks below their nose, below their mouth, on their chin, Morehouse told KOIN 6 News.
“For a child to feel like they have to speak up and enforce, that’s putting a lot on that kid because there’s a lot of fear and anxiety of what happens to Grandma and Grandpa if I catch this,” she said.
The Hillsboro School District confirmed her complaint. In a statement to KOIN 6 News, district officials said, in part, “Liberty and other schools have received reports about isolated instances of incorrect mask-wearing and those are investigated and addressed right away.”
The district said all the principals entered this school year very clear about the mask-wearing expectations. They also said the Hillsboro Online Academy could be offered to students who refused to wear a mask or wear it properly.
But asked if any students have been moved to online learning for not complying, district officials did not reply.
Aaron Corvin with Oregon OSHA, the agency tasked with enforcing the mask mandate, said the issue “is very real for us.”
Corvin said they are investigating 6 districts for staff not complying with the mask mandate: Harrisburg, Adrian, Winston-Dillard, Good Shepherd, Amity and New Hope Christian.
“It does speak to the fact that we’re trying to move this in the right direction,” Corvin said. “And if we need to, we will open inspections.”
But he said that in instances of students, the Oregon Department of Education directed districts to use “grace and patience.”
That tactic does not sit well with parents like Kimberly Morehouse.
“There’s never a guarantee that a person’s going to die from COVID, but do you really want to put that gamble on your kid’s life?” she said.
Morehouse is disappointed because after calling the school district, principal and school nurse, her son’s stories of students not wearing masks continues.
She realizes the difficulties they face trying to enforce this mandate among 1,500 students during the entirety of the school day. But she felt like she got the runaround from school staff and OSHA. She said the staffer at OSHA told her she’d have to file the complaint against a specific teacher, not the district or the students.
That, she said, “doesn’t make sense, because you put a mandate in place and you tell people you need to do this — you don’t give them a way to enforce it, but then you’re going to turn around and fine the teacher? The teachers can only do what the district allows, so it’s really putting staff in such a horrible position.”
Kimberly Morehouse said if there’s going to be a mandate, than have a way to enforce that mandate. “Otherwise you’re setting everybody else up for failure.”