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This piece has been updated to mention reporting from The Denver Post.

Students and parents all over Douglas County, Colorado took to the streets Wednesday morning to protest a countywide school mask mandate.

The organized walkout reportedly occurred around 9:30 a.m., just two days after the county’s health department issued a mask order requiring all staff and students from preschool to 12th grade to wear masks (via The Denver Channel).

Some of the loudest voices were heard at Thunder Ridge High School.

“These people agree with me. They hate masks, and I do too,” said Thunder Ridge student Cole Bradley of the students behind him.

“I believe that masks, they’ve been going from mostly two years now, this is going to be the third year of my high school career that’s compromised. I want a normal high school career there. If you are scared you could stay home,” said student Austin Knapp.

Thunder Ridge High School students were joined by Ranch View Middle School students and their parents.

“There’s enough parents, and there’s enough scientific data to show otherwise, that this is just not a necessary option that they have to take, and there are enough students that feel the same way,” said parent Amy Ellis.

Around the same time, students at Legend High School took to the streets. 

Colorado Community Media reporter Jessica Gibbs posted several videos and pictures of the protests to Twitter:

The crowd grew more after this video was shot. Occasional chants of “USA,” students holding signs saying they will not comply with a mask mandate, and some adults holding signs calling masks child abuse.

— Jessica Gibbs (@JesstheJourno)

Parents and students said masking should be a personal choice. Linda Potter attended in supporter of her freshman son Michael Davy.

Of the students, Potter said: “They are very passionate speaking with their own voice and their own constitutional right.”

— Jessica Gibbs (@JesstheJourno)

Gibbs also wrote that a student told her less than half of students were actually obeying the mandate in the classroom.

Back to notes from the LHS rally. Potter’s son Michael said he did not comply with the mask mandate this morning. He observed fewer than 50% of students masking, he said. He does not believe healthy people should be required to mask and does not believe masks work effectively.

— Jessica Gibbs (@JesstheJourno)

As the United Kingdom and other places around the world begin to understand the lack of real data or science behind masking students and drop their school masking requirements, counties in the U.S. continue to double down. It’s going to take direct action and, yes, civil disobedience like this, as well as voting pro-masking school board members out of office at the earliest opportunity, to turn this thing around. This is definitely a good start.

The Douglas County School District responded to the walkout with the following statement:

Douglas County Schools tells Denver7 “The Douglas County School District continues to balance the challenges of the ongoing COVID pandemic. We will follow the recent public health order issued by the Tri-County Health Department, which requires all students and staff in preschool through twelfth-grade to wear a mask while inside school buildings. Additionally, we will work with our families and staff members who cannot tolerate a mask due to medical or mental health reasons. Our goal is to keep our students and staff in the classroom for in-person learning.

Meanwhile, Tri-County Health, which issued the mandate, insisted that masks “provide protection and prevent the spread of disease which allows students to remain in school where they learn best.”

On a related note, Douglas County commissioners voted Wednesday to split with Tri-County Health Department and form its own health department, largely because of its refusal to allow counties to opt-out of its health orders (via The Denver Post).

Tri-County Health had agreed to let counties opt out of its health orders last November when Douglas County threatened to leave the agency, which also covers Arapahoe and Adams counties, over COVID-19 directives, including mask mandates and business closures.

On Monday, the agency not only eliminated the opt-out but ordered all school districts in the three counties it oversees to require masks for all staff and students 2 years old and older in indoor settings. That prompted Douglas County leaders to accuse Tri-County, which serves more than 1.5 million people, of unilaterally violating its agreement with the conservative county.

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“That was a condition precedent for us remaining with Tri-County Health — that a measure of local control regarding public health orders would be retained by the counties,” Commissioner Abe Laydon said Wednesday.

Commissioner Lora Thomas said the opt-out agreement was supposed to account for the fact that not all counties in Colorado are affected by COVID-19 in the same way, and that local officials should be able to tailor their responses to the pandemic based on local coronavirus data.

Of special note:

“County staff presented data during the virtual meeting, attended by nearly 300 people at one point, that showed Douglas County’s five hospitals have no pediatric hospitalizations and that only one person under 18 has died in the county throughout the entire pandemic,” the outlet reported.

This content was originally published here.