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N.H. Attorney General's Office Says School Masks are Allowed

Dan Tuohy for NHPR

The New Hampshire Attorney General's office says that school mask mandates are legal, in spite of pushback by some parents, lawmakers and school board members.

School districts and private schools are receiving calls and emails alleging that requiring students to wear masks is akin to forms of child restraint prohibited by state law.

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The cited law, RSA 126-U:4, was passed in 2010 to prevent face-down restraint that impedes breathing on children who are exhibiting behavioral issues.

A letter on the conservative web site Granite Grok that argues for the "right to breathe freely and the right to refuse medical experiments" credits the group Rebuild NH, formerly Reopen NH, for flagging RSA 126 in an effort to end masks mandates in schools. Some Republican lawmakers, including state Rep. Al Baldasaro of Londonderry, have posted about the law on social media.

But last week, the Department of Education told school districts that, according to the Attorney General's office, mask mandates do not run afoul of the child restraint law.

Moira O’Neill, the director of the N.H. Office of the Child Advocate, says parents are misinterpreting a rule that was designed to safeguard children from harmful retraints that impede their movement.

“Fussing about masks – a proven intervention to stop viral spread – is telling children that political nonsense is more important than children’s well-being, education, and mental health,” she told NHPR.

State health officials continue to advise the use of masks to lower transmission of COVID-19.

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