Legislation pre-filed in the Alabama House of Representatives seeks to allow parents to opt their children out of school mask requirements.

Rep. Chip Brown (R-Mobile) has filed HB18. The bill would allow parents and guardians to opt-out of mask mandates in K-12 schools and would apply to school activities, school events, and while riding school transportation. The bill does not seek to ban schools from imposing mandates in schools, nor does it inflict fines or penalties on schools that might disregard the law, should it be passed.

HB18 does not apply to universities, trade schools, or any other form of higher education in the state. The bill also does not apply to private schools.  Only schools considered “public schools” would fall under the bill’s purview.

There are no previous requirements, health conditions, or other reasons for choosing not to mask children. A parent needs only to inform their school board via letter for their refusal to be valid under the bill.

No civil right of action is provided against school boards that violate the bill. Therefore, there does not appear to be any protection for parents who might invoke the rights given to them if the law shall pass.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all schools were shut down due to government restrictions, and students were sequestered to online learning. After many of the government restrictions were lifted, most schools in Alabama required masks or facial coverings for students, both attending school and while riding the bus. Mask requirements were increased with the arrival of the Delta variant earlier this year.

The mask requirements brought action from many concerned parents who were vehemently opposed to the mandates. Most notably, many parents in Madison City approached the school board to make pleas to remove mask mandates. 

“We are just here to advocate for our kids,” Merilee Sharp, a parent, said. “It’s our choice. They are our children. We get to make those decisions.”

The government restrictions have been lifted at this point, with most schools making masks optional, leaving the decision to individual parents and guardians.

With the resurging concerns over the Omicron variant, many are concerned that mandatory mask requirements could return to Alabama schools.