Public Health Dean questions mask mandates’ effects on learning

Morgan Bridges, Correspondent

As the delta variant surged through Bulloch County Schools, only a few members of the Board of Education voiced their approval of a mask mandate, with Georgia Southern’s Dean of Public Health questioning its affect on the well-being of students.

Dean of Public Health and District 3 Board member Stuart Tedders said in a September meeting that “masks help to slow the spread of COVID-19”, the Statesboro Herald reported, but despite the public’s agreement with Tedders’ statement, no vote was taken to implement the mandate.

“My guess is that we all have different opinions about what we should do as a district or as a community, and there’s probably nothing that I can say to convince you, probably nothing you can say to convince me,” Tedders said in the meeting. “But I do know one thing, and that is that all of us, wherever our opinion lies, all of us are trying to do the best that we can do to protect our families.”

While believing masks and vaccines are effective in combating COVID-19, he posed questions on how enforcing a mask mandate could interrupt instruction or hinder learning for young children or children with disabilities that rely on facial cues.

The George-Anne reached out to Tedders for comment on the vote and received this response:

“My roles as an employee at Georgia Southern and my community service with the Bulloch County School System are completely different, and I work diligently to not commingle the two for ethical reasons,” Tedders told The George-Anne. “As such, I do not believe there is overlap.” 

Upon The George-Anne’s requests for any further discussion, Tedders declined further comment until after the publication of this article.

“I never indicated I would not support [a mask mandate],” wrote Tedders. “In fact, I would have supported it had we voted. Whenever I make a decision, it is incumbent on me to ask the question, ‘How does this decision impact the academic well-being of students?’.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article was published with factual errors and was taken down temporarily for some well-needed fact-checking. The previous version told that there was a vote at the meeting, and this was incorrect. We have fixed the errors along with adding an additional statement from Tedders.