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Students start petitions to demand districts require mask wearing during school

As administrators make decisions about what classrooms will look like during the COVID-19 pandemic, students are taking matters in to their own hands for safety

ATLANTA — With the number of coronavirus cases on the rise, schools are running out of time to decide what they'll do for this school year. 

Many schools are scheduled to start on August 4, but now students are pushing back, demanding schools enact safety precautions before re-opening.

Kids in some school systems have started Change.org petitions to make leaders in their school districts listen. 

These petitions have grown rapidly -- with some referencing Fulton County's potential decision Monday regarding re-opening schools. Students there were asking that officials mandate all students wear masks to school.

Gwinnett County school officials announced they will not require students to wear masks at school, and now parents are begging the school board to reconsider that decision.

They all say student safety comes first.

"I'm very worried about going back to school with the coronavirus outbreak. If I wasn't going to be a senior this year, I wouldn't be going at all," said Fulton County rising senior, Madison Cochran. 

She says it's all she has been talking about with her friends. 

"We talked about how would we go back, what would we do? And I was really angry," she said. 

Her mom encouraged her to start an email writing campaign, but she started the Change.org petition so other students could get involved. 

RELATED: Coronavirus in Georgia | Latest numbers for June 29

Gwinnett County parents David Raney and DeAnna Spurlin started their own petition after that district announced they would not mandate mask-wearing. 

Online they wrote,  "We require that students wear shoes, shirts, pants, and skirts of an appropriate length. We forbid them to bring guns, knives, or even peanuts to school for the safety of students and staff. Why on earth should face masks be optional? They are by far the most effective method of preventing the spreading of COVID-19, they're cheap and easily available, and they work."

11Alive Medical Expert Dr. Sujatha Reddy agrees masks do help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but thinks it will be difficult to enforce.

"It's a really hard thing to mandate because how do you enforce it? If someone doesn't want to wear a mask, are they going to be forced to go home? Who is going to supervise that child when they go home," Dr. Reddy said. 

RELATED: Here are school districts' plans for back to school in the fall

She says families will have to make difficult decisions about sending kids back. 

"When you have your kids in that environment, you're not only trusting the teachers, you're trusting that the parents are going to be responsible," said Dr. Reddy. 

Cochran says she's hoping all of her fellow students take this seriously. 

"Putting that many people together in one space without masks or social distancing enacted, it's just really going to be a hotbed for the spread of coronavirus," she said. 

Fulton County Schools did not want to comment on the petition for mandatory masking until after their school board votes on the plan on Monday. Gwinnett County school officials did not return calls for comment about their policy. 

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