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Parents At St. John's Lutheran School Fear Mask Exemption Will Be Used In Wrong Way, Putting Their Kids At Risk

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Masking in schools continues to be a polarizing issue, and in Lombard, some parents fear a change in policy may create a loophole that threatens the health of their kids.

CBS 2's Marie Saavedra spoke with a group of parents who are concerned about the upcoming exemption.

The mask exemption stems from a decision made by Lutheran School's leadership earlier this month. At the height of the current wave of the pandemic, their worry is that some will use exemptions with the wrong intentions.

"I feel like especially in a school setting we should want to keep our kids safe."

This group of five people asked that their identities be hidden because of the hotly debated topic at hand. Masking, and the changes coming to the school where children in their families attend.

"Children are shamed, shamed if they are wearing a mask. And that has happened."

They say their students attend St. John's Lutheran School in Lombard which has followed the Governor's school masking mandate. But in an email on Jan. 2 from the senior pastor, the school announced it 'will be honoring medical and religious exemptions' starting Jan. 24.

"I know when I've emailed and asked what qualifies as religious exemption, the answer that I received was well, essentially if the parent thinks that's what they want to do."

This group fears some in the community will take advantage of this change.

"It's more just because a parent feels that they don't want their child to wear a mask anymore. And I don't think that's right!"

They say they have asked for a detailed breakdown of how decisions on exemptions will be made but haven't received it.

"There's no one person who's going to sign off and say 'This sounds good.' It's going to be the church."

We asked the school's principal and senior pastor for clarification and received a statement from an attorney for St. John's saying 'Religious or medical exemptions to the mask mandate are available under disability and right of conscience laws.' It did not address the criteria or how many students have applied for the exemptions but said St. John's desires to be a unified community.

For these parents, that's impossible without more communication.

"We would love if we felt like we were at a point where we could throw the masks out the door and what not, and we're just not there yet."

In that statement, the school's attorneys it's encouraging the community to have empathy for all perspectives, consistent with biblical standards.

The exemptions will go into effect on Jan. 24.

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