Karley Estes of Paris, left, stands with others Monday morning in front of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris where her son is enrolled. She does not think schools should mandate mask wearing throughout the day and plans to home-school him if things don’t change. Others, like Denise Baker of Harrison, middle, and Gail Geraghty of Norway, right, joined in. Though they had some others show support, the three were the core and most vocal during the protest. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

PARIS — There was no shortage of honking horns Monday morning in front of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School where a small group was protesting mandated mask-wearing.

The organizer, Karley Estes of Paris, has a son enrolled at the school but does not plan to send him if he has to wear a mask. She knows there will be a backlash to her actions in the small community but hopes to lead by example and motivate others who feel the same to speak up as well.

“I don’t believe it’s healthy to mandate children to wear a mask for eight hours while at school and there are plenty of studies that prove that,” Estes said. “While I am able to make this choice and plan to homeschool my son, other parents are not able and although they don’t agree with the mandate, they have no choice but to send them. I know there are many out there that agree but are afraid to speak up. I have been ridiculed and ostracized by many in the community but feel strongly enough that I needed to take action. It’s a small community and was a difficult decision but felt I needed to step up and do something about it.”

Many drivers honked while also sharing their opinions both verbally and with thumbs or middle fingers up. Many smiled, others scowled.

One man stopped and showed the protesters a photo on his phone of his dog wearing a mask and gave them his unabashed opinion.

“That’s just terrible,” said Estes as she backed away, smiled and thanked him for sharing his opinion.

While several others joined for a short time, it was primarily three women that spent the morning standing and demonstrating their conviction on the matter.

Gail Geraghty of Norway wanted to make it clear that the group wants to keep people safe.

“Hospitals, nursing homes and other places where there are vulnerable people is not the issue. We are all for wearing masks there and in places that are necessary,” Geraghty said, “but to make a blanket one-size-fits-all policy for everything is not right. It’s the elderly and those with underlying conditions that are the ones that get really sick and die, not school-aged children.”

Geraghty said she believes everyone is losing their freedom and choices even though there should be exceptions and calls for more civil dialogue on the issue.

“I have COPD and a doctor’s note that I have shown to several local establishments but have been denied entry,” she said. She doesn’t blame the workers and feels many businesses that are forced to mandate masks would rather not and should be allowed to make that choice.

“My world continues to shrink,” Geraghty added.

Denise Baker of Harrison pointed out that there are several sites on social media with large followings of like-minded people who disagree with government-mandated face masks. Baker joined Estes and Geraghty in the no-mask trio.

She said she was moved by how brave Estes was to stick her neck out and face certain backlash from the community. Though she was hesitant herself, Baker felt compelled to speak up to support Estes and their cause.

“It starts with one, and Karley is our No. 1,” Baker said as a car of well-wishers drove past shouting support.

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