voice for democracy

Commentary: When mask opponents made threats, DD2 chose fear over democracy, public health – Charleston Post Courier

Partly cloudy. Low 67F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph..
Partly cloudy. Low 67F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: October 1, 2021 @ 6:16 pm
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A student urges the Dorchester District 2 School Board to impose a mask requirement during Monday’s board meeting. Despite survey results showing most parents and staff wanted a requirement, the board declined to take a vote. Screen shot.
Jason Brockert
Will McCorkle
A student urges the Dorchester District 2 School Board to impose a mask requirement during Monday’s board meeting. Despite survey results showing most parents and staff wanted a requirement, the board declined to take a vote. Screen shot.
When we arrived at the Dorchester District 2 School Board meeting Monday, there was something a little different. First, there were a lot more police cars.
The board was supposed to announce the results of the survey of staff and parents about whether to mandate masks. We assumed it was going to go with the results of the survey. Otherwise, what was the point of sending it out? We perhaps naively assumed that it was making preparations for the reaction from some angry anti-mask parents because it was planning to adopt a mask mandate.
When we entered the building, it was even more apparent that there could be problems, as we all had to go through metal detectors; we were told the board had received threatening emails.
Some of us had spoken the week earlier about the importance of putting in a mask mandate. One of us told the story of his own daughter who had gotten COVID a week into the school year and how the district was responsible for community spread if it did nothing. A student spoke about how uncomfortable he felt being at school with few mitigation strategies.
Jason Brockert
Will McCorkle
We came back Monday to press the board to make changes. One parent talked about intimidation and not letting a small, radical minority win out and control the decisions. We warned the board members that if they allow this to occur, it is a death knell for our democracy. The board seemed receptive, and we hoped we had gotten through a little.
After the comment period ended, the board announced the results of the survey: 72% of parents and 75% of staff who participated favored a mask mandate.
So logically, between these overwhelming results and the overwhelming medical advice, the board would require masks in school.
Instead, it seems that the intimidation coupled with the board’s fear of repercussions won out. There wasn’t even a vote. Despite the overwhelming support of parents and staff for commonsense measures and the CDC calls for mask requirements, the board did nothing.
There were concerns that principals were worried about parental resistance and logistical and legal complications (this was before a federal judge blocked the state restrictions on mask requirements). However, the decision was a complete slap in the face to all the parents and staff who assumed the board cared about their opinions. It also made us wonder about the real purpose of the survey. Were officials hoping parents would oppose the mandate, and give cover to deny a mask mandate?
The winner here was extremism. The administration and board members sided with the people they had to put up metal detectors to protect themselves against. They sided with the people they castigated at the beginning of the meeting for being disruptive. They sided with the people they had to kick out in the middle of the meeting — the people who flipped them off and yelled obscenities.
The board taught everybody a powerful lesson: Intimidation and coercion work. The voice of the people is secondary to the voice of fear.
It was a shameful day in Dorchester 2. We can do so much better.
If we let the mob win, our democracy is dead. This month, it’s about mask mandates. In a couple months, it might be the mob trying to get a teacher fired for speaking about racism in American society. We cannot let this extremism rule. Otherwise, we do not have actual self-rule. We are calling on Dorchester 2 officials to do better: to drop their fear, and to actually do what’s right for our community.
Jason Brockert is a parent of sixth- and eighth-graders in Dorchester District 2. Will McCorkle is an education professor whose wife teaches and daughter attends first grade in the district. This was written in collaboration with other members of the Facebook group Dorchester Parents and Staff for Mask Requirements.


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