FOX Files: Some say rising COVID quarantines at mask optional school districts are hurting mental health


ST. LOUIS – A mental health advocacy group says it cannot remain silent any longer.

The president of a “Find the Light Foundation” reached out to Fox 2 after Monday’s Fox Files involving the Fort Zumwalt School District in St. Charles County.

Alex Bingham wanted to talk about the mask optional policy, even she’d previously said she was going to stay out of that debate.

“It’s such a toxic topic right now, we didn’t want to distract from our mission,” Bingham said.

Bingham foundation was formed after a student died by suicide.

“We realized there was a big disconnect between what the administrators thought the students wanted and what the students were telling us,” she said.

She said the district listened and has been taking action on some of their mental health suggestions. However, she said both parents and students reacted strongly to what the district superintendent told Fox 2 News in the morning about why board members decided to go mask optional.

In that interview, he said the school board was “… worried about the mental health and the social, emotional issues of kids.”

“Find the Light” responded with this statement on its Facebook page, which says in part – “We are deeply troubled by the use of mental health as a rationale for mask debates without observing the negative impacts of this decision. Mental health is not just a talking point.”

Bingham added, “We thought they were maybe missing where quarantines make a much bigger impact than wearing a mask does, based on what our kids are telling us.”

Quarantine numbers have nearly doubled since Monday’s Fox Files – from 251 to 498 as of the close of school Wednesday.

Keep in mind quarantines do not mean positive tests.

Here is a breakdown of the schools with the most quarantines:

  • North High leads the way with 83 students quarantined — 12 testing COVID positive.
  • West Middle is second with 55 students quarantined — 5 of those are COVID positive.
  • Westhoff Elementary is third with 48 quarantined and 11 COVID positive.

Bingham added, “Prolonging the pandemic, taking away these mask requirements – that just leads to more kids getting quarantined, more kids out of school, less social opportunities, as well as the added stress just from going to school in a pandemic.”

She said that students are reporting that the option to wear a mask at school has led to no one wearing one.

“We’ve seen some bullying in kids who want to wear masks or who want other people to wear masks and a lot of the kids just weren’t comfortable sharing publicly their opinion because there might be backlash,” Bingham said.

Bingham said she’s reached out to the school board and has at least one scheduled call with a board member and she said her organization will speak out at the next Fort Zumwalt school board meeting Sept. 20.

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