Free the Smiles: NC Middle School Student Takes Podium to Speak Out Against Mask Mandate

RALEIGH – While capacity restrictions, closures, and general statewide mask mandates have been dropped, several COVID decrees still remain. The most egregious among them, perhaps, is the continued requirement by executive order for kids to wear masks in school.

Republican lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly are working to ‘Free the Smiles’ with legislation that would make such decisions local, leaving school districts to finally suspend the damaging charade of masking kids. Kids who were never at serious risk of getting, suffering from, or transmitting COVID; masks that proven to have no effect in stopping the spread of COVID.

The legislation is included in the budget proposal from the N.C. Senate and moving in the N.C. House. At a committee meeting on the issue Wednesday, a rising 8th grader from Union County took the podium to deliver a sober and solid rebuke of the governor’s school mask mandate, and implored lawmakers to pass the bill.

Watch the video here, but the words — words that show this middle schooler is wise beyond his years — warrant writing down.

Jackson Willis, starting 8th grade in the fall:

“We know that masks have impacted learning, but they have also impacted mental health.

We can no longer receive reassurance from our teachers; not even a simple smile. I cannot see or hear my friends with their masks on. We know that mental health issues are higher than ever before.

Students are seven times more likely to die of suicide, rather than COVID.

The Declaration of Independence states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all Men are created equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights and among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The right to life has been taken from those children who have committed suicide. The rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been taken from the rest of us.

As legislators, the power is given to you by the People. We do not consent to giving you this power over us. As a citizen of this state, I ask that you support this bill that gives schools the choice to remove masks, rather than the governor who is so far removed from our school. Thank you.”

There might be hope yet, if this young man’s disposition is well represented among younger generations.

Here’s NC House Majority Leader John Bell’s take on Jackson’s stand, as shared on Facebook:

“Kudos to Jackson Willis, a rising 8th grader from Union County and the son of Rep. David Willis, for having the courage today to stand in front of House lawmakers to advocate for legislation to end the Governor’s statewide school mask mandate. Jackson explained the personal mental health impact masks are having on his friends and classmates. The bill, which passed the House Education Committee today, is expected to be on the floor later this week.”

While the legislation has strong Republican support, with a Republican majority willing to put it in the budget, Governor Roy Cooper has proven intransigent when it comes to returning the power he’s grabbed during Pandemic Panic. As such, it will ultimately be Cooper and the Democrats who stand in the way of freeing our kids’ smiles if they choose to veto and grandstand.

Barring legislation to put Cooper back in his place, parents and students will be left to focus pressure on local school boards to take a stand. In the meantime, follow the legislation here.


Have a hot tip for First In Freedom Daily?

Got a hot news tip for us? Photos or video of a breaking story? Send your tips, photos and videos to All hot tips are immediately forwarded to FIFD Staff.

Have something to say? Send your own guest column or original reporting to