K-12 Masking Wars


The use of public insults and misinformation by the political right has acted as both a headwind and deadweight against the achievement of structural civil rights reform. These tactics act as a headwind by making it difficult to build effective remedies into a statute, and then, after the statute is enacted, they act as a deadweight to make it difficult to enforce the limited set of remedies that exist. To withstand the force of this public insult playbook, it is important for civil rights statutes to have strong, structural enforcement mechanisms rather than neo-liberal, one-person-at-a-time kinds of remedies.

In this article, I show how the current “masking wars” in K-12 classrooms provide an excellent example of the tension between the rights of disabled students, who need masks to be worn in the classroom for their own safety, and the use of public insults and misinformation to impair access to those rights.