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Mask debate intensifies as metro Atlanta students head back to school

Therapists say both sides are feeling a level of fear and anxiety.

ATLANTA — The great mask debate has intensified as students are back to class. In some districts, school board meetings have been so intense they had to be shut down early.

Some therapists are not surprised by the shouting matches. They said both sides are feeling a level of fear and anxiety. For some, its for the health of their family. For others it has to do with their fundamental rights.

The Henry County School Board meeting from about a week ago was filled with shouting matches between parents over whether or not their children should be made to wear masks at school.

At a Cobb County School Board meeting from Thursday night, parents were debating inside and outside. In Cherokee County, attendees gave cheers and "boos," even after board members asked them not to. That meeting was less contentious than some of the others, but it too was cut early.

Heated exchanges like these are not typical during most school board meetings. But scenes like these are happening around the metro.

“If you’re inundated with difficult to process information. I think it can be challenging for parents who are already anxious about what’s going to happen with their children,” said Psychologist Alfiee Breland-Noble.

Dr. Breland-Noble said both sides are constantly inundated with information that confirms their own beliefs and hearing the opposite opinion can be an emotional trigger.

“And anything that you hear that contradicts that is like a fuse, it’s just lighting the fuse. The match lights the fuse and you get this explosion,” said Breland-Noble.

One Cherokee County board member mentioned if students displayed the same behavior, they would likely receive in-school suspension.

Breland-Noble said it's important that parents have a conversation with their children about what they are seeing.

"We should be explaining why we behave in the way we behave, whether it’s good or bad. Because we are our children’s best teachers," she said.

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