The issue of forcing kids to mask-up in school when full-time in-person classes resume in two weeks has caused a deep divide among parents and school officials in New Jersey.

Dueling petitions started by parents in Wayne are underscoring that divide.

Last week, the Wayne Board of Education voted to draft a letter to Governor Phil Murphy asking him to rescind his blanket mask mandate, and leave the decision up to local districts.

That decision drew cheers from a vocal group of anti-mask parents. But it also drew jeers from an equally vocal group of parents who support the mask mandate.

Each faction then drafted petitions on change.org

One petition demands the school board send the letter to Murphy asking for the mask mandate to be repealed.

There is a lack of scientific data which validates the effectiveness of masks or provides clear evidence that they cannot cause harm to children who’s bodies are still developing. Therefore we request the board of education request Governor Murphy remove the mask mandate and restore parents rights to decide what is best for their children. - change.org petition/People for Parents Rights

The other petition demands the district do nothing, and keep strict masking rules in place.

We believe that mandatory masking for students, teachers, staff, and visitors to our public schools, as required by Executive Order 251, is a critical part of a layered prevention strategy to ensure that Wayne students can attend school in person. - change.org petition/Wayne Residents for Curriculum Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity

For now, the petition for keeping the mask mandate has hundreds of more signatures than the one demanding the repeal.

Taken as a poll, the disparity in petition signatures as of Thursday morning (1,408/875) closely mirrors the most recent survey from Monmouth University on mask mandates in New Jersey schools. Of those who have signed either petition, 62% support the masking in school buildings..

The Monmouth poll reported 67% of registered voters support the mask requirement for schools, and 28% disapprove of the rule.

The Wayne Board of Education will hold a special meeting tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. to revisit the issue and decide which letter, if any, they will send to the governor.

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Remembering Tropical Storm Irene's impact on NJ, 10 years later

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BEEP BEEP BEEP: These are the 13 types of Wireless Emergency Alerts auto-pushed to your phone

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system allows government officials to immediately and automatically push messages to all cell phones and mobile devices within a specific geographical area. There are a total of 13 types of messages that can currently be sent as a Wireless Emergency Alert. Nine of them are weather-related warnings, including one that is brand new as of August 2021.

NJ arrests 31 accused child predators in "Operation 24/7"

A roundup of 31 men have been accused of sexually exploiting children online, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced on July 14 while detailing "Operation 24/7."

The suspects “possessed and or distributed videos and images of child sexual abuse, including in many cases videos of young children being raped by adults,” Grewal said.

Chat apps and gaming platforms remain favorite hunting grounds for child predators and even as the pandemic winds down, many children have continued to spend more time online.

State Police received 39% more tips in just the first 6 months of 2021 than they received in the entire year in 2019. The following are suspects charged in "Operation 24/7."