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Q. My 8-year-old daughter, “Jasmine,” started in-person school this fall. The other day, while waiting to pick her up, I started chatting with the mother of one of Jasmine’s close friends. This parent confided in me that she had been sending her own daughter to school wearing a mesh mask, so that her child could “finally breathe” and get around the “stupid mask mandates.” What’s worse, she claimed to have learned about these masks (that look like regular ones) from another parent in the class, which means my child is likely interacting with at least two students who are essentially maskless.

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I was appalled. This mother was not only endangering her own child, but also putting her daughter’s classmates at risk of catching a potentially deadly virus. Since Jasmine wears a multi-layer mask with a filter every day (and I trust her to follow all the mask rules at school), could she get COVID from one of her friends who wears a useless mask?

And how do I address this situation with the other parent? Should I speak with her again, or bring this up with Jasmine’s teacher or school administration?

I don’t want to pull Jasmine out of school, since she’s been so happy to see her classmates in real life again, but I would do so if I needed to keep her safe.

Your advice?

EXASPERATED MOM

A. Any mask that allows air to flow through unfiltered obviously does not do what masks are intended to do. Furthermore, if this mask is deliberately made to appear as if it is made of solid and filtering fabric, then the intent is to deceive.

Always rely on your physician’s advice (and the CDC guidelines and recommendations) concerning your child’s risk, but it seems most obvious that your child’s teacher is possibly at an even greater risk than the children in the class.

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This teacher has the right to work in the safest possible environment. If these masks are not safe, then skirting the rules in this regard is demonstrating extreme arrogance and potentially dangerous disregard on the part of these other parents. Yes, the teacher and school administration should be notified.

Education Week magazine is keeping a growing list of educators who have died due to COVID-19. If you want to have your heart broken today — regarding the bus drivers, lunch ladies, librarians, custodians, and beloved teachers and school staff who have died of COVID — I suggest you look up the editorial in the Sept. 3, 2021 issue (“We Feel Your Grief”), written by Managing Editor Lesli A. Maxwell.

Education Week notes: “As of Sept. 24, 2021, at least 1,145 active and retired K-12 educators and personnel have died of COVID-19. Of those, 378 were active teachers.”


Q. As important holidays approach, I am forced to reanalyze my social anxiety.

I know I should call friends and family members to let them know I’m thinking about them, but I get butterflies in my stomach and put it off for hours because I feel like I never know what to say. When it comes to disagreements with anyone, I shake in my boots at the thought of arguing and causing a rift.

I want to maintain strong relationships, but I don’t know how to get over my silly fear of conversations.

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Do you have any ideas or words of comfort for anyone struggling with this?

DESPERATE TO CHANGE

A. Your anxiety is not at all “silly.” Your desire to work on this is commendable.

Engaging with friends and family via social media (such as Facebook) might help you to communicate (textually) with people you care about. Also send postcards, greeting cards, and notes.

When it comes to placing calls, write down a couple of thoughts or questions to get you started, and ritualize the experience. Make yourself a hot beverage, sit in a favorite spot, have in mind what you will say if you leave a message. Reward yourself when you’re done.

You can practice by calling a business and asking one question, such as, “What are your hours today?”

Smaller successes will lead to larger ones.


Q. I don’t always agree with you, but I have to admit that I really liked your response to “Helpful Husband,” whose florist wife clashed with the wife of Helpful’s colleague.

I snorted when you suggested that this florist translate the relationship into future business and “say it with flowers.”

WON OVER

A. Monetizing a prickly relationship would be extremely satisfying.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.