Student Perspective: The BFA Mask Mandate

BFA+students+travel+down+the+connector+hallway.++Photo+credit%3A++Asher+Ballantine+

BFA students travel down the connector hallway. Photo credit: Asher Ballantine

Rachel Ledoux, Writer

Please note:  This is part of a student perspective series by Rachel Ledoux.

Through a survey on Bellows Free Academy’s mask requirement sent to the BFA student body, The Mercury got an inside look at the way students feel about both the mask mandate and the way their peers have been following it. 

Approximately 72% of the 175 students who completed the survey said their classmates sometimes wear their masks properly, and 25.7% of students said their classmates never wear their masks properly unless asked.

“Walking through the hallways, half or over half of students are either wearing their mask under their nose or on their chin,” Claire Johnson (‘24) said.

Many students noted that enforcement of the mandate varies from teacher to teacher as well.

According to Rebekah Dalmer (‘23), “For some teachers, you must wear your mask properly above your nose, and with other teachers, as long as it is on your face somehow, they won’t say anything.”

When students were asked about following the Covid-19 guidelines outside school (social distancing, wearing a mask outside of school, limiting travel, etc.), 29.1 % of students surveyed said they only follow the Covid-19 guidelines when forced.

For students who support the mask mandate, observing this sort of behavior from their peers has been upsetting.

“It is incredibly disappointing to see BFA students have such little care for their peers. I thought we were better than that, honestly,” said Emily Parent (‘22).

On the other hand, several students view the mandate as an imposition on their rights.

Yahir Ramirez (‘22) said, “A mask takes away our liberty to choose. Superseding our rights goes against the principles of the Constitution.

Elio Haag’s (‘23) comment in the survey refuted this idea: “This school is an institution that has the established right to enforce its own rules, meaning that it is not at all unconstitutional for there to be a mask mandate.”

One student suggested the idea of relying on “natural selection” instead of masks. 

“If you look over time the ‘weak’ always die with viruses, and the strong usually are fine. This is just nature,” one BFA student, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

Many students expressed a desire for a vaccine-based mandate, where only unvaccinated students would be required to be masked.

“What did they get the vaccine for if they still had to wear [a mask]?” a BFA student, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

There was one theme to the portion of the survey where students could share their thoughts, which was that the mandate could be handled more effectively at BFA. 

As Colin Langlois (‘23) put it, “If masks are still going to be mandatory, then teachers and other staff should be doing a better job of enforcing the rules . . . if no [one’s] willing to enforce it, then the mask requirement should be dropped [altogether].”