This column originally appeared in The Detroit News.

This week, under blistering fire from parents, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration rescinded its guidance calling for masks in schools.

Yet despite this and the fact local health departments have recently pulled back their mask mandates, districts like Detroit, Saginaw and Ypsilanti still have their own forced-masking rules.

Instead of giving control of our kids to local school officials, it’s time to respect kids and put parents back in charge.

Michigan children can’t wait, as each day another child falls further behind academically or deeper into depression, anxiety, or worse.

Across the nation, states are beginning to catch up with what parents have been saying for years: Mask mandates don’t protect kids in school — they hurt them. 

More than 1,000 physicians and health professionals have signed a statement explaining that our kids desperately and urgently need a return to pre-pandemic normal, and they need it now. Part of that, the doctors argue, is doing away with masks.

There’s little wonder why the doctors are speaking out. COVID-19 restrictions, they argue, have contributed to worsening mental health for children across the board. 

And for what? The experts reviewed the evidence and concluded that the risk of COVID is far less harmful for kids than the burdens of mandates.

“Based on a careful review of all of this evidence, we believe it is time to allow children the same return to normalcy that adults have enjoyed,” the doctors concluded.

The governor and Democratic politicians have been enjoying that normalcy.

Democrats found themselves in hot water again last week after Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Holly shared photos of themselves unmasked while surrounded by masked children and adults. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was maskless for a photo at a pet store in Lansing — a city where children are still forced to wear masks in school.

During the pandemic, Whitmer was busted for going maskless in settings where she was publicly telling parents and kids they had to wear one.

Parents have been outraged over the hypocrisy, but the only response we’ve seen from the Democrats are job postings for new social media managers. 

Apparently a viral photo of a maskless candidate beaming in front of faceless children is bad for public image.

To their credit, Republicans in Lansing have been fighting back. Last fall, they passed legislation to let parents pick open schools where their kids wouldn’t have to mask. Yet Whitmer vetoed that.

And they passed bill language last year to help end the forced masking in our kids’ schools, which the governor didn’t enforce. 

The science is clear. The data is unambiguous. The statistics, though, aren’t numbers. They’re real, living, breathing children. They’re our kids, our nieces and nephews, our neighbors. And they’re struggling.

This one’s simple: It’s time to end the forced masking of our kids and help ensure all the schools stay open. This is what our children need. 

Tori Sachs is executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund.