Coronavirus: Victorian school's face mask rule sparks debate

A Victorian school’s coronavirus face mask policy — which requires students’ masks to be one of four colours only — has stirred up debate on social media, with one commenter branding it ‘frankly ridiculous’.

Students at Lighthouse Christian College are required to wear a face mask while on school grounds as well as while travelling to and from school, the principal, Avril D Howard, announced in a YouTube video on July 22.

The school requires students' face masks to be one of four colours only. Photo: Lighthouse Christian College.
The school requires students' face masks to be one of four colours only. Photo: Lighthouse Christian College.

According to the ‘Student Face Mask Guidelines’ presented in the video, the masks can be either the single-use or washable types but must be a ‘standard solid colour only’.

The prescribed colours include grey, black, blue or white — presumably to tie in with the school’s uniform — and all ‘designs/patterns’ are prohibited.

Students are not allowed to wear ‘scarves or bandanas’ as a substitute if they don’t have a mask that meets the school’s guidelines — instead, they must collect a mask from school reception.

Students with a medical condition that exempts them from wearing a face-covering are instructed to advise their ‘Sub School leader’.

School’s face mask rules slammed

After a screenshot of the guidelines was shared on Facebook, the school’s face mask rules attracted criticism with many suggesting that the focus should be on the act of wearing of face masks, regardless of what they look like.

“I feel like this is not the time to be picky,” one user wrote in the comments.

Photo: Facebook.
Photo: Facebook.

Another took issue with the potential stress upon parents and carers to source school-approved ready-made face masks, or fabric to make their own at home, during a time when resources are already stretched.

“I could understand if the mask had an offensive logo or pattern on it but not allowing masks unless they are a solid colour of the school uniform is frankly ridiculous,” they wrote.

“People are going to have a hard enough time finding fabric as it is (I bet the local fabric shops are pretty low in stock by now), let alone having to make sure it is the correct solid cover,” they added.


Photo: Facebook.
Photo: Facebook.

Yet another user argued that the school’s policy prioritised the students’ appearance — and by extension, the school’s as well — rather than their health.

“My mask isn’t green because I’m trying to make a fashion statement, it’s green because that’s the fabric I have at home,” they said by way of example.

“By saying masks can only be a certain colour they’re prioritising masks as a ‘school pride’ fashion statement rather than prioritising the wearing of masks in the first place,” they added.

Photo: Facebook.
Photo: Facebook.

Not everyone was critical of the school’s policy, with one Facebook user calling it ‘reasonable’ in light of the trend for face masks sporting offensive slogans.

“To be fair, since people are printing masks like this, some sort of mask policy is reasonable,” they wrote.

Another pointed out that the school has stated that students without face masks for whatever reason can easily pick them up at reception.

“It says masks are available at student reception so I don’t think this is an accessibility issue,” they said.

A third user, however, had a counter-argument ready, saying that requiring un-masked students to enter a highly-populated area of the school such as reception might not be the best idea.

“Yeah just walk into one of the most travelled parts of the school, specifically by kids without masks, to get a mask,” they stated.

Offensive coronavirus face masks. Photo: Facebook.
One Facebook user who called the school's face mask rules 'reasonable' included an example of the offensive coronavirus face masks for sale. Photo: Facebook.

Do VIC schoolchildren have to wear masks?

Depending on their age and the location of their school, students in Victoria may be required to wear face masks.

The state’s Health and Human Services website states: “Students under the age of 12 do not have to wear face coverings. Students ages 12 and over in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will need to wear face coverings under current restrictions.”

Lighthouse Christian College students range in age from three-years-old (Kindergarten) to 17 to 18-years-old (Year 12) however there is no reference to age-related face mask requirements in the ‘Student Face Mask Guidelines’.

The co-educational private school is located in Keysborough, a 17-minute drive south-east of Melbourne’s CBD, meaning it falls into the metropolitan Melbourne area and is obliged to adhere to the state’s face mask requirements introduced at midnight on July 22.

Portrait of a girl going to school wearing a facemask to avoid the spread of coronavirus - lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic concepts   (Portrait of a girl going to school wearing a facemask to avoid the spread of coronavirus - lifestyle duri
School students in Victoria may have to wear a face mask depending on their age and location. Photo: Getty Images.

Lighthouse Christian College has been contacted for comment.

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