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High school students stage walkout over California school mask mandate

Hundreds of high school students at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, California, staged a walkout on Tuesday over the school’s mask mandate remaining in effect even as parts of California relax mandates.

Several parents of students at the school sent the teenagers to school without a mask, according to Jennifer Yoder, a parent at Oak Ridge. The high schoolers who showed up without a mask were dismissed from class.

“This was a homegrown thing between the parents and then the kids working together to get everyone on board,” Yoder told Fox News. “It just kept growing and growing. And then they eventually just got up and left those classrooms and ran outside and started their protest.”

A letter was sent to the parents from the school board Tuesday afternoon, informing them that although the mask mandate was still in effect, they would no longer punish students who decided not to wear a mask.

“The enforcement of masking will be done by educating students and asking them to mask but no further actions of exclusion from class will be taken,” the district said in the letter. “Moving forward students will not be physically removed from the classroom or receive a discipline consequence to prevent further exclusionary learning loss.”

The staged walkout protested the delay in lifting mask mandates at schools statewide. California Gov. Gavin Newsom was expected to lift the mandate Monday, but California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said there would be a two-week delay, marking Feb. 28 as the next day to reassess the school changes.

The delay and subsequent walkout came after Newsom announced most indoor services and shops could remove the mask mandate, though stores could keep it in place if they chose. The end of the mandate is for vaccinated citizens only, with unvaccinated residents still expected to wear masks.

Although the mask mandate is still in effect at schools across the state, some schools such as Corona Norco Unified School District in Riverside County have set up areas where students can study outside without a mask or protest the mask mandate. Other schools, such as the Roseville Joint Union High School District near Sacramento, voted to defy state orders and make masks optional.

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