Last week, the principal of a Chicago Catholic school was placed on leave after announcing that masks would be optional for both teachers and children.
Doc Mathius, the principal of Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Evergreen Park, Chicago, made the announcement to remove mandates despite the Archdiocese of Chicago having mandated masks throughout its schools.
Mathius has since stated that he was seriously concerned for the mental well-being of the children, especially after realizing that these young children were growing up without even knowing what their teacher looks like without a mask on. It was also becoming apparent that the children were having trouble learning and experiencing emotional strain.
Following this suspension, Mathius spoke to Chicago-based news channel WGN9, saying “I just thought my time has come. Somebody has to do something. In my little tiny corner of the world, I never imagined that it would create this kind of a stir.”
“I expected to be terminated,” Mathius told WGN. “I expected extreme pushback, so I was not surprised.”
Mathius says that he did what he believed was best for the students at his school. “I value my position at Queen of Martyrs,” he said. “I’ve made such great friends and colleagues. The parishioners, the school families, they’re just wonderful… I thought it was worth doing.”
Now, local parents and children are rallying in support of Mathius, demanding that the school reinstate its principal. On Sunday, students at Queen of Martyrs and their parents gathered outside the school, holding signs and banners that said “We Love Doc” and “Doc is our hero”, along with other anti-mask mandate signs.
One father at Queen of Martyrs, Andrew Tourville, addressed the issues faced by his child while having to wear a mask to school, saying it has hindered her abilities to learn effectively.
“There is always a concern of COVID much like concerns of catching the flu or anything else,” said Tourville. “We’re more concerned about the mental health of our children.”
“The really big issue with my daughter, she’s in kindergarten,” he continued. “She’s tiny, her teacher can’t hear her when she speaks across a large room with a face covering.”
Another parent voiced his support for Mathius, saying “Doc Mathius would take a bullet for anyone. He has the kids’ best interests at heart in mind. I’m not so sure the archbishop does.”
It was not only parents from Mathius’ school that came out in support of the principal and the sacrifices he made to defend his students.
“I think [Mathius] is fabulous,” said one grandmother from a neighboring parish. “I think because of Doc, all the suburban Catholic schools are unmasked. Everyone except Chicago.”