Some parents are silently voicing opposition to a potential mandate requiring children to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

Operation Shoe Drop, promoted by an anti-vaccine group called NJ For Medical Freedom, is encouraging parents to leave pairs of shoes at schools. The shoed eventually will be donated to Habitat for Humanity in Newark, according to Shoe Drop spokeswoman Edie Nico.

Nico said the group collected over 400 shoes outside Middletown North High School Sunday night, the first of several planned protests.

More shoes were left in front of schools in the Berkeley Township and Central Regional school districts on Tuesday. Additional drops are scheduled Thursday for the Hanes Sixth Grade Center in Medford and Saturday at Central Elementary School in East Brunswick.

A silent protest

"Parents decided to place the shoes of all the disenfranchised children of the mandates for donation at the schools as a silent and peaceful but profound statement," Nico said. "This wasn’t a protest with no horns or signs, just a silent peaceful statement of all the children that will now no longer be able to participate in public school because of our governor and his mandates that are discriminatory and segregationist."

Schools can send students home who do not comply with Gov. Phil Murphy's mask mandate for all students and staff inside New Jersey public and private schools. Many parents who do not agree with the mandate have kept their children home and are homeschooling them. The mandate expires on Jan. 11.

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Photos: Anti-vaccine shoe protest at NJ schools

Operation Shoe Drop, part of the larger group called NJ For Medical Freedom, is encouraging parents to leave pairs of shoes at schools in pairs which in turn will be donated to Habitat for Humanity in Newark, according to Shoe Drop spokeswoman Edie Nico.

Mandates and misinformation

"We're concerned about any infringement on our children, masks vaccines and inappropriate content. It's all about medical freedom," Nico said, repeating disputed claims that masks prevent children from breathing.

California is the only state mandating children to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Murphy has said numerous times that implementing a similar mandate in New Jersey remains on the table, which is a concern to members of NJ For Medical Freedom.

Nico called the mask mandate a "power grab" by Murphy that used COVID-19 to promote segregation and discrimination.

"There's no way to a separate the masks from the vaccines because they were just to gain compliance to something irrational ... to prepare us for the next mandate. So our children, many of them were removed because of the mask mandate and many more will be removed because of the vaccine mandate. All the violation of our bodily autonomy," Nico said.

The website healthychildren.org, which is sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, says several mask myths continue to circulate.

• Face masks made from breathable material will not block a child from getting oxygen and the vast majority of kids can wear masks for an extended period of time safely.

• Wearing a face mask does not affect the child’s lung development

• Face masks do not increase exposure to germs, which would increase the chance of a child becoming sick; the opposite is true.

• Worn correctly face masks can reduce the transmission of COVID-19

Superintendents in Middletown and Central Regional on Wednesday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for more information.

Previous reporting by David Matthau was used in this report.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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