ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) —  A group of parents and students rallied outside of the Maryland State House on Thursday to call for the public school mask mandate to end.

“We are a community of parents fighting for freedom,” said Julie Bennett of Howard County.

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The rally started at 10:30am and lasted for about 2 hours.

Parents and some of their children from several different counties held signs, some of which read “Please Let Us Choose” and “Let Our Kids Breathe” while others chanted, “No more masks.”

The group called on Gov. Larry Hogan to write an executive order to lift the face covering requirement in schools, while also putting pressure on the Maryland State Board of Education.

“I can’t get the child experience that other people get,” said third-grade student Isabella Pedone.

This gathering comes a week after Hogan wrote to the board asking for the mandate to be rescinded.

The foundation for Hogan’s request was declining COVID-19 metrics, the widespread availability of vaccines for school age children and concerns about the emotional well-being of Maryland students.

In part, he wrote to the State Board: “I applaud you for your efforts to support in-person instruction and your emphasis on social-emotional health. Now, it is critical to move toward normalcy for students and families by rescinding the school masking policy.”

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The board’s current policy allows local school districts to lift the mask mandate if at least 80% of the county population is vaccinated, 80% of the school staff and students are fully vaccinated, and the county has gone 14 consecutive days with moderate to low transmission rate of COVID-19.

The board of education discusses COVID-19 metrics and the current mask mandate at its monthly meetings. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 22.

WJZ asked whether the mask mandate discussion and review would happen any sooner than its next scheduled meeting, but we have not heard back yet.

Other efforts to end the mask mandate in public schools include a lawsuit, which challenges the board of education’s requirements.

“There are many parents who may believe they want their children to still wear masks and they will have that option afterwards. What we don’t want is for children to be required to wear masks in school and allow the parents to make that decision,” said Attorney Ed Hartman III, who represents the Coalition of Maryland Parents.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday.

On Wednesday night, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education voted 8–0 to remove the mask mandate from its public schools.

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Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto recommended that the rule be lifted, saying the county meets the requirement of having 80% of its population vaccinated.

Cristina Mendez