AKRON, N.Y. (WIVB) — Dozens of students at Akron High school, made their voices heard this morning. Around 50 or so walked out of the classroom at 9 a.m. It was the latest act in Civil Disobedience Week, peacefully protesting against Erie County’s mask mandate.
Students stood outside for 15 minutes chanting “Free our face,” and singing the National Anthem. They headed back inside afterwards. Some of the school administration stood outside as well, for its duration.
Senior Ayana Dzialak led this morning’s walkout. “If you feel comfortable wearing a mask, then I absolutely support you and think that you should,” she said. “If you don’t, then don’t wear a mask. It’s really just a matter of having a right to be able to choose for yourself.”
Akron was one of several schools expected to walk out this morning. Parents who are part of this movement say this isn’t about breaking any laws, it’s about teaching their kids to stand up for their freedoms. “This fight is not about wearing masks, it’s about freedom of choice,” said Robby Dinero, Co-Founder of Fight for your Family initiative “It’s truly representing every body of society. those that want masks and those that don’t want masks.”
Meantime, Erie County leaders say when it comes to slowing the spread, masks work. “We have data to show that that is true and since we’ve implemented our mask mandate in Erie County, our COVID-19 numbers are much lower than surrounding counties, that have not implemented a mask mandate,” said Erie County Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Gayle Burstein.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says, at the end of the day it’s the county’s job to protect students. “We know it’s important to wear masks especially in school settings. We want to keep the rates down among children who themselves could get sick or pass it on to others,” said Poloncarz. “You’re entitled to your own opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts. Masks work,” he said.
As part of Civil Disobedience Week, a group of students will also be taking their masks off during the Pledge of Allegiance, tomorrow morning.
Civil Disobedience Week began Monday, when hundreds marched from Buffalo City Hall to the Rath Building.
Gabrielle Mediak is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.