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Governor Greg Gianforte announced on Aug. 31 the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) issued an emergency rule to promote the role of parents as the ultimate decision makers on matters pertaining to the health of their children, including on the issue of wearing masks in schools.

“This emergency rule ultimately directs schools to recognize the fundamental rights of parents, and because each child is unique and may face unique challenges, this rule urges schools to empower parents to do what’s best for their children,” added Gov. Gianforte.

The emergency rule, issued by DPHHS, reads in part:

In order to provide for the health, well-being, rights, and educational needs of students, schools and school districts should consider, and be able to demonstrate consideration of, parental concerns when adopting a mask mandate, and should provide students and/or their parents or guardians, on their behalf, with the ability to opt-out of health-related mandates, to include wearing a mask or face covering, for reasons including: 

(a) physical health;

(b) mental health;

(c) emotional health;

(d) psychosocial health;

(e) developmental needs; or

(f) religious belief, moral conviction, or other fundamental right the impairment of which could negatively impact the physical, mental, emotional, or psychosocial health of students.

Underscoring the detrimental impact that universal masking may have on children, the rule cites a body of scientific literature that shows side effects and dangers from prolonged mask wearing.

After signing the emergency rule, DPHHS Director Adam Meier said, “DPHHS respects the authority of parents to make health-related decisions in the best interest of their children, including whether wearing a mask in school is appropriate. DPHHS would encourage schools to take into account all of these factors and implement any mitigation strategies in the least restrictive means as possible to maximize learning outcomes for Montana children.”

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