Collinsville high schoolers say they’ve been segregated and bullied for not wearing masks
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - COLLINSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- Starting Tuesday, Collinsville Community Unit School District #10 staff and students will be able to choose whether or not to wear a mask in school.
It’s a big change for many, as dozens of parents and students have been advocating for choice for months now. Many students are wanting masking to be a choice after they said it’s caused mental, emotional and academic challenges.
“It was really hard,” Sophie Brissenden said.
Brissenden is a senior at Collinsville High. She decided to stop wearing masks after an Illinois judge ruled to approve a temporary restraining order (TRO) at the beginning of February.
“I was really excited for my high school experience,” Hannah Niemeier explained.
Niemeier is a freshman. She said she was thrilled for an in-person classroom experience going into Collinsville High, something she didn’t have in parts of seventh and eighth grade.
“It’s been tough,” Koen Kassly said.
Kassly’s a sophomore. He said the hardest part of this has been his grades slipping after virtual learning and other COVID-19 mitigations.
“My grades dropped really bad,” Hannah Jones added.
Jones is also a sophomore. She and the other four Collinsville High students said they were excited to get back to the classroom. Since August, these students said masks have been in the way of uninterrupted learning.
“I don’t want to have a battle with anybody at the school board. I just want my chance to choose what’s best for me and anybody else that agrees with me,” Jones explained.
These students said they’ve been speaking openly about wanting masking as a choice.
“I just want things to be normal. I mean I’m tired of wearing a mask it gets annoying at times and not being able to see your friends’ faces or your teachers’ faces,” Kassly said.
It’s a topic that’s divided students, teachers, faculty and even parents. Monday night, more than 100 of them were at the Collinsville School Board meeting. People on both sides of the issue were there to make a case. Some for masking, others for choice.
“The only precaution we have at our disposal is masks. My mask protects you, your masks protect me,” one parent said.
Last week is when things started drastically changing for some students in Collinsville. That change happened after the TRO was issued and Collinsville continued masking students. The four students we talked to Monday were some of the dozens who chose not to wear masks. When they showed up to school last Monday maskless, they were reprimanded.
“They pulled us all into the auditorium that day. We’re not learning we just sit there on our Chromebooks. I got an assignment today and it just says do this,” Brissenden said.
For more than a week now, these students tell us they’ve been put in the high school’s auditorium, without much guidance.
“I have no idea what we’re doing in class or like I’ll get this note sheet that I’m supposed to fill out with the teachers, but I can’t fill it out since I can’t join a Google meet,” Niemeier explained.
Collinsville school leaders confirmed they have been segregating kids who refuse to mask up. On top of this, students said they’re now also being bullied. They showed us messages from other students saying things like “kill yourself”, “hope you get COVID and die”, “I wish death on your whole family.”
“I have never thought to react like that to someone who has a different opinion than me, it just upset me,” Niemeier said.
“You’d think everyone would be civil enough to just respect each other’s opinions, but there are people who will go out of their way to tell you you’re stupid,” Kassly said.
Monday night, Collinsville School Board members voted unanimously to make masking a choice across the district. School leaders said students will no longer be segregated starting Tuesday as masking becomes “strongly recommended”.
We did ask for a comment about the bullying and threats being made to these students and are waiting to hear back from school administrators.
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