Montana Governor Greg Gianforte announced on Tuesday afternoon that the Montana Department of Health and Human Services has issued an emergency rule to ‘promote the role of parents as the ultimate decision makers on matters pertaining to the health of their children’.

KGVO News spoke with both Gianforte and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen regarding the emergency rule.

“Our children should not be subject to arbitrary mask mandates when schools can't follow the science, because as we found out in doing our research, there just is not reliable research,” said Governor Gianforte. “This emergency rule directs schools to recognize the fundamental rights of parents, because there's no settled science here. In fact, there's some research that says prolonged mask wearing among children is actually harmful.”

Gianforte acknowledged that some parents may want their children to be masked, which he said should be their decision, not the local school board.

“Some children, at the direction of the parents, may choose to wear masks; that's fine,” he said. “But these one size fits all mandates really ignore the wishes of the parents, and ultimately the parents are responsible for the health of their children. We are directing through this emergency rule school boards to number one, listen to the parents. Ultimately, they're elected by the parents. They serve at their pleasure and they should be acting in accordance to their will and it's a strong statement of parental rights. The science just does not support masks in schools.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen echoed Gianforte’s sentiments.

“I do want to say to our school board's local control is still in place,” said Arntzen. “It is extremely important that through any type of a mandate, especially the mask mandate, that they should consider and they need to be able to demonstrate parental concerns in adopting the mandate and making sure that the ability for students to be able to choose and opt out based on six different reasons, from physical all the way to the basis of religious belief or moral convictions.”

According to the document, the six opt-out factors are:

‘(a) physical health (b) mental health (c)emotional health (d) psychosocial health (e) developmental needs, or (f) religious belief, moral conviction, or other fundamental right the impairment of which could negatively impact the physical, mental, emotional or psychological health of students.’

Arntzen stated that school boards are not medical institutions, and that all the science involved in such a decision should be investigated.

“It also states that this is a health issue, but our school boards across our state, and we have 400 of them, work in the education world,” she said. “They deal with school budgets and giving educational opportunities, but this temporary emergency rule now states this is a health issue and it takes us a little way from their realm and puts it at the state level with Health and Human Services.”

KGVO has reached out to MCPS and the Missoula City County Health Department for a comment on the new DPHHS emergency rule.

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