It has been clear for months now that much of our coronavirus policy is being driven by sheer hysteria rather than actual science. School policies requiring young children to wear masks are no different.

There is no evidence — none — to support the mandatory masking of children. Take it from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which did not even pretend to justify its masking recommendation for children over 2 years old with hard data because the agency knows such data does not exist. In fact, the CDC’s own studies proved that mandatory masking did not make a statistical difference in the schools that stayed open last year when compared to the schools where masking was optional. And that’s because children are not effective transmitters of COVID-19 — something we’ve known for well over a year at this point.

Despite this, schools across the country remain determined to force children to participate in needless pandemic theater at the cost of their own development. There is a reason that several countries are explicitly discouraging not just students, but teachers from wearing masks: the emotional and mental development of young children depends on the ability to read adults’ expressions. In the U.K., for example, educators were told that if they must wear a face covering, it should be a plastic or “transparent” one to allow for “the full visibility of facial expressions.” But the standard, according to the U.K.’s Department of Education, should be no masks at all for students, staff, and visitors “either in classrooms or in communal areas.”

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., toddlers must wear masks for hours on end to soothe the fears of irrational policymakers who would rather force children to bear the consequences of their paranoia than seek out a therapist. Enough is enough. Masking children is unnecessary and unscientific, and its effects on this generation will be felt for years to come. That’s a trade-off no parent or teacher should be willing to accept.