Parent upset with bishop, Diocese of Venice mask requirement in Catholic schools

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Tom Trombly. Credit: WINK News.

The mask debate in schools is heating up as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Catholic schools have mask mandates in place, but one parent said he isn’t going to comply and plans to have his child remain unmasked.

Parent Tom Trombly said his 12-year-old daughter always aims to please.

“She’s a wonderful child, a wonderful student,” Trombly said.

So when she walked into St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Golden Gate on Monday without a mask, she had to make a painful decision when asked by a staff member to put one on, he said.

“When I picked her up, she was upset,” Trombly said. “She was worried that she didn’t please everyone, her parents, her teachers. And frankly, no kid, my daughter, should not have to go to school on her first day of seventh grade and worry about masks.”

But Trombly’s daughter and other catholic school students do have to worry about masks.

The Diocese of Venice in Florida sent out a letter recently that says it will require masks at all Catholic schools that are in areas with a 10% or greater positivity rate.

“It’s done temporarily with weekly review,” explained Father John Belmonte with the Diocese of Venice. “It’s also just for students indoors, not outdoors, and we look at it on a weekly basis to see if we need to do it based on the positivity rate. And so yes, it’s a massive requirement.”

Trombly said the mask requirement put in place by the Diocese of Venice violates parents’ rights, and he thinks he should be able to make medical decisions for his daughter. Trombly blames Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice for this mandate.

“I’d like to tell the bishop that he should respect my right as a parent to make the choice for my daughter’s health. Period,” Trombly said. “We love the school. I don’t have any issue with the school. We love our church. We love being parishioners of our church. We have no issue locally or within our community. My issue is with the diocese and the bishop.”

Belmonte said there is a plan for students who don’t comply with the requirement.

“If they don’t have one, we provided them with a mask,” Belmonte said. “If their parents have told them to not wear a mask, then we talked with the parents, talk with the parents about the reason why we’re doing this mask requirement. And if they continue to refuse, we ask them to go home, and they continue the conversation with them.”

Diocese of Venice said there is no timeline for the mask requirement. It’s going to wait and see how things progress with COVID-19.

Trombly doesn’t plan to abide by the current protocols set by the diocese.

“She will not be wearing a mask,” he said.

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