In recent weeks, parents in districts surrounding Indianapolis have gone to school board meetings in droves to voice their opposition or support of masks in schools.
School board meetings usually aren’t well attended. I’ve gone to a lot of school board meetings. Most of the time, depending on the district, it was just me (the reporter), the school board, an administrator or two and a couple of teachers. Parents came when their children were recognized by the board and then promptly left when the recognition was over. A packed room would return to empty in a matter of minutes.
School boards only have a large audience when people are fired up about an issue. Currently, that issue is masks.
For the life of me I can’t understand what has people so angry about mask wearing. If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t wear a mask.
However, we’re in a pandemic – a pandemic that keeps evolving but people are still denying it – so, I’m OK with following certain protocols to stay healthy and stay alive. I’m OK with exchanging a little comfort for life. Mandating masks isn’t crossing a line too far for me.
Again, it’s the fervor and fury of these parents and community members (everyone attending the board meetings isn’t even a parent) that I don’t understand. Like, your life must be pretty darn good if the only thing you have to get fired up about is a mask mandate. Yet, these are some of the same people who have a problem with Black people nonviolently protesting police brutality. Can you imagine what would happen if Black parents came out en masse and stormed school board meetings in the same way? If a Black man’s gun accidentally fell out of his pocket during a school board meeting? That’s not what this column is about, but I couldn’t resist pointing out the double standard.
I’m reminded of the New York Times podcast “Nice White Parents.” Parents who act like their child or children are the only ones who matter and expect school boards to acquiesce their demands (which they often do out of fear of losing students).
However, public schools are about more than your children. Public schools accept all children, and children come with different needs. These parents aren’t considering the children who have underlying conditions and need protection. While your child may be healthy, the student on his right may have an autoimmune disorder or be in remission from cancer.
Are these parents mad because they don’t believe their children have COVID-19 so there’s no need to wear a mask? Are they mad that schools are trying to protect their children? Do these parents demand doctors remove their masks during surgery or dental hygienists? What exactly has them so mad that they’ve lost all sense of civility?
These nice white parents aren’t modeling good behavior for the children. They certainly aren’t acting like adults. In fact, they’re acting like bullies. I’ve read about or watched parents harass doctors and others who say masks should be worn to protect their children’s safety. These parents boo, follow people to their cars or scream in their faces. Intimidating people who disagree isn’t nice. It’s appalling and downright disgusting. They should be embarrassed and ashamed of their behavior.
What makes their yelling and screaming (during a pandemic that is spread this way) even more appalling is we’re in the midst of an increase in coronavirus cases. School boards aren’t requiring students to wear a mask just for fun. They’re doing so in an effort to keep children safe. They’re following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re trying to mitigate harm not exacerbate it, but you wouldn’t know by the way these parents are performing.
I’m a parent with a child in school. She has to wear a mask. Is she excited about it? No. Does she complain? Sometimes. Does she get over it? Yes.
If we want to end mask mandates, then it’s real simple. Let’s do our best to stop the transmission of COVID-19. Masks may not be 100 percent effective, but we know coupled with social distancing masks reduce the transmission of coronavirus.
At the rate we’re going, this thing is going to be with us forever.
Oseye Boyd is an author at the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper.