Virus Outbreak Florida

Angry anti-COVID-19 testing mom Diedre Ruth reacts as she has her microphone cut off at an Aug, 24 Broward County School Board meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

School board members want kids to be in school.

Why wouldn’t they? That’s their mission. It’s the reason they do what they do — to get as many kids as possible in schools so that they can learn in as rich of an environment as possible. Operating against that goal would be self-defeating.

To accomplish that mission means school buildings have to be safe and healthy places for students.

Unfortunately, these days the COVID-19 caseloads point to mask-wearing as one of the effective ways to safely get kids into school buildings and keep them there for as much of the academic year as possible. If all the kids aren’t or can’t be vaccinated, masks are the next best safety protocol as determined by infectious disease experts.

The following sentence about masks is not from an infectious disease expert: “Masks may sound perfectly harmless, but so did asbestos, which wasn’t discovered to be dangerous until years of widespread use.”

That was the argument against requiring masks in schools from a member of the public at a school board meeting last week in northern Minnesota.

Not only have many boards had to listen to way too much nonsense — how come every surgeon across the world doesn’t die prematurely if masks are so dangerous? — but they’ve also been threatened and intimidated by members of the public.

Viciously attacking the people who have to make tough decisions about children’s health, safety and well-rounded education is a coward’s way of the world. School board members shouldn’t need police escorts to leave a meeting as they have in some districts.

Disagree all you want. That’s your right. But you do not have a right to abandon civil discourse and besiege elected representatives and school officials who are supposed to have the student body’s best interests at heart.

And because of the public taking a sideshow approach to numerous issues, including distance learning, mask-wearing and social studies curriculum in the last year or so, now we’re losing too many dedicated board members who have reached their emotional limit. They’ve had enough of the constant barrage of outrage that trumpets the angry mob’s rights over that of what’s best for the majority of children.

As of Friday, 61 school board members in Minnesota resigned compared to an average of about 12 a year.

So if the upheaval and loss of representation aren’t enough of a price, consider that every special election to fill those vacancies costs the public from $5,000 to $10,000 each. That money comes from districts’ operating budgets — in other words, from a pot of money that is supposed to be spent in classrooms.

All elected officials should be held accountable for what they do or don’t do. But when every action or discussion of an issue results in rude, intimidating, unreasonable public reaction, it’s no wonder some school board members are deciding public service isn’t worth the cost.

— The Mankato (Minnesota) Free Press

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