More than 200 people turned out for a “My Kid My Choice Keystone School District” rally late Monday afternoon, aimed at pushing back against a state mandate requiring students at public and private schools to wear face masks, effective today.

“My Kid My Choice Keystone School District” is one of several Facebook groups that popped up late last week after Gov. Tom Wolf issued the mandate.

Jason Say, one of the group’s organizers and who has children attending Keystone schools, was the main speaker at the hour-long rally.

The group has encouraged parents to fill out a form letter to send to school administrators claiming a “face-covering exemption.”

The letter claims the student should be exempt if they state a medical, mental health, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the person to maintain a face covering.

The exemption letter further states the school should not enforce the masking requirement when an exemption is granted, if it is unsafe to wear a mask or if requiring a mask violated any state or federal anti-discrimination laws.

Say said more than 130 of the completed letters were delivered. Officials were not available for comment Monday evening.

Say said he did not intend to debate the pros and cons of masks or vaccinations, but instead is concerned the mask mandate is part of an over-reaching state government, and the masks are affecting students’ mental and physical health and their ability to learn.

Say took Wolf and other state officials to task for enforcing the mandate through threats of withholding funding or with possible criminal charges against school administrators.

But Say also said he believes local school administrators are too quick to comply with mandates and to give in to the perceived threats.

With parents and taxpayers in the audience from Keystone, Allegheny-Clarion Valley, Clarion-Limestone, North Clarion, Clarion, Brookville, and Cranberry school districts, Say suggested people go to their home school boards and tell those officials to push back against the mandate.

If those school boards and administrators refused to do so, suggested Say, parents should pull their children from public school enrollment and place them in cyber schools.

Say acknowledged such action could “bankrupt” local school districts as the districts would have to pay upward of $10,000 per student for the cyber schooling.

Say said bankruptcies would force Harrisburg officials to listen to the wishes of northwestern Pennsylvania’s rural residents.

Keystone’s plan

According to a letter and one-call message issued late Friday by Keystone Acting Superintendent Mike McCormick, based on advice from Keystone’s legal counsel, the district would fully implement the mask mandate on the morning of Sept. 7, 2021. Students, staff, and visitors will be asked to please wear a facial covering while on school property.

McCormick added, “However, we also are committed to ensuring all stated exemptions in the order are allowed, including medical exemptions provided by a doctor.

“Additionally per the order, Keystone School District will not be removing students from class or from school for their refusal to wear a mask. We also will not be disciplining students for not wearing facial coverings.

“Our enforcement for the order will be to offer masks and face shields to anyone not wearing them to ensure students and visitors have this resource at their disposal.”

Editor’s note: An expanded version of this report will appear in the Thursday edition of the Clarion News.