Care and Feeding

Should My Third Grader Really Be Punished for This COVID Faux Pas?

His teacher said there’s no excuse for this.

A boy looks upset while holding a mask dangling from one ear.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Sviatlana Lazarenka/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Slate Plus members get more Care and Feeding from Doyin Richards and the other columnists every week.

Dear Care and Feeding,

School started up yesterday and my son, who’s in third grade, told me that his teacher snapped at him for wearing his mask below his nose. When I confronted his teacher, she said she warned him multiple times, and the last time she raised her voice at him. She also went on to say that we have been in a pandemic for almost two years, and there’s no excuse for not knowing how to properly wear a mask. I found her tone to be extremely condescending and rude, and I want to talk to the principal about it. Masks are uncomfortable for him, and I don’t see the problem with him pulling it down occasionally to get some relief. My husband thinks I’m off my rocker and we should just teach our son to do what he’s told despite his discomfort. What do you think? I should also add that he’s fully vaccinated.

—Mask Drama

Dear Mask Drama,

Quite frankly, I don’t blame your kid’s teacher one bit for snapping at him. She should have a short fuse between putting her health at risk on a daily basis and likely being underpaid, all while trying to actually teach her students. Dealing with kids wearing their masks improperly in addition to all of that would send most teachers over the edge. Heck, I see preschoolers who handle mask-wearing like champs, so forgive me if I lack sympathy because a third grader is uncomfortable.

To be clear, nobody enjoys wearing masks, but this is the world we live in now, so we have to adapt accordingly. Have you considered getting him a different type of mask that isn’t so uncomfortable for him? They come in all types of shapes and sizes, so you just have to find the right one.

In terms of complaining to the principal, please don’t unless you find joy in making a fool out of yourself. Any school administrator who believes in science will laugh you out of their office for being upset over a child who didn’t comply with public health guidelines after multiple warnings.

Also, being vaccinated doesn’t mean you can’t get COVID or pass it along. If your kid is in an indoor setting for multiple hours a day, proper mask-wearing will protect him and his classmates. Grown-ups should know this by now.

The sooner everyone falls in line, the sooner this pandemic nightmare will end. Do your part.

—Doyin

More Advice From Slate

Our son has a friend, “Matt.” Matt’s parents are very religious and have a lot of rules about what Matt isn’t allowed to watch or read. He is not allowed to play video games, period, and wouldn’t be allowed to watch a Harry Potter movie or a superhero movie. My husband says we should just let him watch and read the stuff, and that his parents’ rules can be for their house, but we don’t have to follow them. Matt will be staying with us this weekend, and my husband wants to take the boys to see a movie of which I know Matt’s parents wouldn’t approve, but one that is age appropriate for 11-year-old boys. Is my husband right? Can we disregard Matt’s parents’ wishes or should we follow them as they seem to trust us to do?