A young student wears a face mask while sitting at a school desk.

So Schools Will Send Girls Home Over a Bra Strap but a Mask Is an Unenforceable “Personal Choice”?

This article is over 3 years old and may contain outdated information

Recommended Videos

The conversation around U.S. schools reopening has been maddening for so many reasons, not least of which is the insistence that starting schools back up is safe as long as there are “proper precautions” in place. That sounds fine until you realize that those precautions involve expecting everyone from kindergarteners up to teenagers to do things like socially distance, not touch each other, and keep masks on throughout the day.

The notion that that was a possibility was quickly dispelled by photos from a school in Georgia during the first day back this week:

How many masks do you see in that crowded hallway? Five? That looks like a coronavirus petri dish.

As if that sight weren’t bad enough, the explanation given by that school districts’s superintendent is even worse. After that photo went viral, Dr. Paul Ott sent a letter to parents in which he wrote, “Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them. What we will do is continue to strongly encourage all students and staff to wear masks.”

Speaking as someone that spent many years of my life being told I couldn’t wear spaghetti strap tank tops to school, that statement is total bull.

Schools have never had any trouble policing girls’ bodies. Our bodies are called a “distraction,” impeding on male students’ right to an education. How is requiring a nose and mouth to be covered any different, logistically speaking, than requiring thighs or cleavage or shoulders to be covered? Isn’t a major public health risk also a distraction and an impediment to young people’s education?

In yet another example of schools doling out extreme punishments to young women and girls, Hannah Watters, the 10th-grade student who took that photo, was suspended for doing so. The suspension has since been rescinded (with no explanation given) but it’s ridiculous that it was issued in the first place.

Watters told CNN her reasoning for taking the photo, explaining, “I was concerned for the safety of everyone in that building and everyone in the county because precautions that the CDC and guidelines that the CDC has been telling us for months now, weren’t being followed.”

(image: Andressa Anholete/Getty Images)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.