I attended my first school board meeting this past week, and I made it out alive. Here’s how it all went down:
Over the weekend, I got an email from our school district giving parents an update about a recently-filed lawsuit contesting the statewide mask mandate for schools in Illinois. The email stated that while the judge had found in favor of the plaintiffs — five families who were not named in the email — it would not change the district’s position on mandates. Moving forward, the email stated, students whose families were among the plaintiffs would be allowed to attend school without masks. All other students would continue to wear masks — because science, I guess.
Meanwhile, a number of the surrounding districts responded to the lawsuit by adopting a “mask optional” policy starting Monday — but not ours. And students who refused to wear masks were given only two options: have a parent come to pick them up or sit in the library or cafeteria and do assigned work segregated from the other students.
That night, unsurprisingly, the scheduled school board meeting drew a crowd of over 100 angry, frustrated, and confused parents and students — confused, in part because in addition to keeping the mask mandate in place, the school board had not given parents any information about what level of infection might finally trigger a rollback of the mandate.
I joined them, phone charged and ready to record — and, if I’m honest, I was a little bit apprehensive. After all, I had been reliably informed — by the United States Justice Department, no less — that the room I was about to enter was filled with domestic terrorists.
As it turned out, it was just normal parents and concerned citizens who filed into the room and sat in the chairs designated for the “public” — and although the vast majority refused to put on masks at the board president’s request and a few spoke out of turn, that was the extent of the unruly behavior. The worst thing I heard throughout the meeting was from a few parents who accused the board members of not caring about the kids.
For the most part, everyone was respectful — both school board members and parents — as individuals stepped up to the mic and made their case for mask choice. Some had children who had been greatly affected by the constant back-and-forth between in-class instruction and remote learning, while others had children who felt sick or claustrophobic after wearing a mask for hours at a time.
By the time two or three parents had spoken, however, there was shift in behavior from several members of the board. They could be seen rolling their eyes at some of the comments, or playing with their phones while people were talking — and more than once, two of the board members appeared to be engaged in their own conversation while a parent had the floor.
The board president attempted to gavel out the meeting and move to a closed session after the fifth parent spoke, but several parents called out from the audience, saying things like, “We’ve been dealing with your policies for two years, you can listen to us for another 20 minutes.”
After two or three more speakers, an immigrant from Bosnia stood up and began to speak about what the beginning of tyranny looks like. As he was speaking, the board president once again attempted to gavel out the meeting — but he continued speaking, and after a moment, the board president gave up. Despite that, two board members actually stood up and got their coats, making a move to walk out while he was still talking. Several parents called them out immediately, saying that they were rude and disrespectful — at which point the board president instructed them to sit back down.
The meeting did go to a closed session after one more speaker, although not without some grumbling from parents who did not feel that they had been heard. Parents filed out of the building and most simply went home — although some remained outside the building talking amongst themselves.
In fairness to the board, the Superintendent was not at the meeting and he is part of the final decision on such issues — so although a number of parents were quite vocal about their disappointment, it was not terribly surprising that nothing was decided during Monday’s meeting. Two days later, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) announced a rollback of the statewide mask mandate — effective February 28 — but he was careful to note that schools were not included and students would continue to wear masks.
But the thing that stood out the most to me — and as I’ve already admitted, this was my first experience at such a meeting — was the number of dads who were there. We’ve all seen the viral videos of moms all across the country advocating for their kids at school board meetings — and provided they do so in a polite and non-violent manner, we need more of that. But I was absolutely floored but the number of dads who showed up, stood up, and spoke up for their kids. We need a lot more of that, too.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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