At the Board of Education meeting on Feb. 28, it became evident, more than ever, that the community has basic, fundamental, ideological differences regarding pandemic measures.
However, that doesn’t give anybody the right to be disrespectful and despicable to the
superintendent of schools and the volunteer board of directors the way far too many community members did that night. The behavior that they modeled for our children is uncalled for.
One person said that we are raising a generation of children who cannot think for themselves. To that person we say: it is delusional to think that you are not one of them. You are making accusations and accusing people who are trying to do what is in the best interest of all constituents. The attitude presented by these people both individually and as a group is the problem with our community, society, and our nation. We need to be encouraging respectful discussion and discourse among each other, and as a model for our kids.
There have been many times—including that night—that we have not agreed with the board or with Dr. O’Meara. This is a known fact. Many of us did not always agree, and in fact are not happy about the mask mandate going away. However, we also understand that this is the direction that we are moving in and therefore attended the board meeting safely from home to try to get some answers to our questions about how this next phase of the reopening plan will proceed. The out of control public comments did not allow time for questions to be answered. This is not the first time that this has happened.
The purpose of this letter is not to say that we should still have a mask mandate regardless of how we may or may not feel. However, despite our collective concern, we were not attacking the board and the superintendent over this decision. Our questions and concerns as to how to transition deserved to be heard. Many argued that Dr. O’Meara and the board don’t have a mind of their own; that they don’t think for themselves and they are just following CDC guidelines, but that is the way this country has handled the pandemic. There are always guidelines and rules to follow. That is how this country, and by extension, democracy works.
Some also expressed concern that we have asked our children to protect those in the
community around us. That is life. That is what we do as a society. Yes, children and adults alike are responsible for those in their community around them. This is a basic fundamental belief and it’s the only way the world works. “It takes a village to raise a child.” In many ways, that old adage rings truer than ever. Caring for one’s community leads to children becoming caring adults that are mindful of others, of the needs of others as well as their own, not to mention a sense of civic duty. Otherwise, we end up raising selfish, uncaring individuals who will only ever do what is in their own best interest and never hope to repair the world through kindness and caring.
Much of the comments centered around the right to choose, and an intense feeling that that was somehow violated. Yet, there seemed to be a lack of understanding or willingness to properly process an email that clearly stated that parents have the right to choose whether or not to send vaccination status to the district. It’s clearly stated in the email that was sent. Should parents not have the option to avoid quarantine by sending in their child’s vaccination status? Is this not OUR right to choose? While “we” try to understand the frustration many must have felt since March 2020 as Covid-19 regulation after regulation disrupted everything, please know this: masks have saved countless lives.
The forceful, and often mocking messaging that the pandemic is over is inappropriate as well as false. We are getting there—we all want that. But when, for example, medical offices still require masks and phone calls to enter, you know the pandemic is still around.
The loudest voice in a room is not the only voice. Being loud does not make you right. It is
unacceptable to speak to people in the way that BOE members and Dr. O’Meara were spoken to that night. If nothing was said in response, this behavior would appear to be deemed as acceptable by the community as a whole—and it is not. What happened that night is despicable, and those involved should be ashamed of themselves. Think about the model that you set for your children when you go off on a tantrum. There is a fine line between being passionate, and being belligerent and that line was crossed on that night.
Accusing parents who want our children protected with masks of being lunatics is absolutely abhorrent behavior. We are not intentionally harming our children because they “can’t breathe.” Such an accusation, from one parent to another, is downright disgusting and out of line. We have no problem breathing in a mask and our children have no problem breathing in a mask. We have just found the right masks for us.
The behavior exhibited by the community members who spoke are the reason that we are concerned about sending our children to school. We fear that your children are going to be the ones who are bullying our children via parroting what they hear at home, and that is unacceptable. Perhaps all involved should take a page out of the district’s “no place for hate” policy and apply it to their everyday lives.
We have spent days and weeks preparing our children, to defend your children in halls and classrooms. To defend every family’s right to choose, mask or no mask. Why that respect cannot be extended both ways is baffling, sad, and beyond words.
It is our fervent hope that this community can learn to accept the fact that there will never be shared consensus on this issue, or many issues to come. That it is okay to agree to disagree. But it is never okay to be disrespectful. That we must remain calm and model such calmness for our children so that they learn to function in a world that is full of hatred, intolerance and misinformation. They must learn to weigh all sides, make informed decisions, debate and discuss rationally and sometimes agree to disagree and move on.
So, let’s do that. Let’s respect each other’s emotionally charged opinions and recognize that we all want to protect our children, and simply have different views of how to do that. Let’s encourage our children to bring that respect to the classroom, the playground, the home and everywhere that they interact with their peers.
Let this village heal, and raise our children well.
Large group of concerned constituents for a civil community