One Connecticut high school student is channeling his frustration and upset over the continued school mask mandates in his state into awareness, outreach and activism.
Lucas Johnson, 17, and other high school students in Connecticut want their classrooms and school experiences to return to normal now across the Constitution State. They know their state is in the process of dropping the mask mandate — according to Gov. Ned Lamont, the mandate will end Feb. 28 — but they don’t want to wait a minute longer. They also don’t know what’s over the horizon.
“This is not just a fight for liberty,” Johnson told Fox News Digital this week in a phone interview. “It’s a fight for our generation.”
The students are concerned that local municipalities and communities will wind up extending the mask mandates — leaving students stuck behind masks well beyond February.
Both Johnson, a high school senior in Danielson, Connecticut, and his mom, Patricia Johnson, talked to Fox News Digital recently.
“All our scientific data shows that kids are the least susceptible to COVID but the most vulnerable to everything we’ve been doing,” Lucas Johnson said, referring to the rising anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that have come up over the past two years.
“I will continue to fight as hard as I can until kids are put back into a normal environment in school,” he added.
Johnson founded the advocacy group, Connecticut Students for Liberty. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the group traveled to Hartford, the state capital, and stood on the steps of the Connecticut Statehouse, speaking out about how mask mandates have affected their lives.
Among Johnson’s comments that day, which caught the attention of some local outlets: “The COVID mitigation tactics in school, particularly the mask mandate, have been detrimental and harmful to the mental health of students,” as Connecticut Insider noted of Johnson.
Lucas Johnson described to Fox News Digital his small advocacy group as 30-40 kids who are “willing to do intense work” for their freedoms.
“It’s an outlet for kids,” he also says of the group, “to get involved and stand up for themselves.”
Their goal is holding Connecticut state government accountable.
On a regular basis, the students peacefully protest, hold press conferences, conduct email and letter-writing campaigns, track legislation, and communicate through their dedicated Facebook page.
Even though restrictions across Connecticut might be relaxing soon, these concerned students are not. They want their state to “drop the mandates immediately.”
Johnson is not just focused on the present. He’s looking ahead to potential hazards around the state’s plan.
“The governor requires the legislature to write the mandate into law for the time period between Feb. 15th [when Gov. Lamont’s executive order expires] and Feb. 28th,” when authority is to be shifted to school administrators, Lucas Johnson told Fox News Digital. “Since they have no bill in front of them, we don’t know who will take up the authority regarding mask mandates after the executive order expires.”
He fears this gap may open the door for the legislature to shift power to the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Department of Education. “We don’t want another mandate under a different name,” he said.
‘Hiding their emotions’
Johnson said he and his peers feel “disconnected from their teachers” every day at school due to the masks they must wear.
“Kids are traumatized,” he said. Masks, he said, make it easier for kids to “hide their emotions.”
The enforced mask wearing, in his view, has also created an unhealthy fear of COVID inside the school — not something that’s often reported.
“You step out of school and there’s no masks anywhere,” Lucas Johnson said.
So “school is a fearful environment now.”
All of this and more is why Johnson’s group organized a recent school walkout of 150 students who oppose the mask mandates.
Johnson also said he has issues with the COVID mitigation tactics in school. He’s had to quarantine four separate times due to contact tracing — and the stories he hears from other students and peers drive him to stay active and involved.
“We’ve seen Lucas work tirelessly to advocate for his peers and stand up for those who feel abandoned by the adults in their lives — namely the professionals in their schools.”
His mom, Patricia Johnson, by the way, stands firmly behind her son as he speaks up and out for his fellow students.
“We are very proud of our son Lucas,” she told Fox News Digital in an email.
“My husband and I worked hard to instill in our children the courage to stand up for what they believe,” she also said. “But in these past two years we’ve seen Lucas work tirelessly to advocate for his peers and stand up for those who feel abandoned by the adults in their lives — namely the professionals in their schools.”
“Not only has he helped these students to find their voice,” his mom continued, “he’s worked for the day that they won’t be bullied anymore and silenced for trying to air their painful experiences.”
Kathy Koch, PhD, an education psychologist based in Fort Worth, Texas, who is focused on kids and the impacts of COVID, told Fox News Digital this week that she’s “really concerned” about what’s been going on with kids and enforced masking.
The mask-wearing, she said, made sense at the beginning of the pandemic — now, “we must prioritize children’s well-being and the purpose of their being in school.”
She doesn’t say any of this lightly, she added, because “the virus is real.”
But “if children get [the COVID virus], they tend to not have severe affects or symptoms. I’m concerned about their emotional health, their intellectual health, their social well-being. I know of a child who came home to his mom and told her, ‘I don’t know anybody in school. And I don’t know what anybody looks like.’ Social well-being is essential” to our young people, she emphasized.
The purpose of school, she also noted, is “to learn how to live life. We have missed the boat on so many things,” said Koch, who is also founder and president of Celebrate Kids Inc., an organization that helps parents and educators understand and meet the needs of today’s kids.
“I’m very concerned” about what’s going on, she said. “I don’t want any of our young people to be defined by loss. They’ve lost soccer seasons, piano recitals, spring plays — and Grandma and Grandpa weren’t able to come to their graduations. Those things are very real. But I want young people to pay more attention to what they do have than what they don’t have. And we, as the adults,” have to direct them in that way, she advised.