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Coal Region Op-Ed

No Matter Your Stance on Masks, School Boards Chickening Out Should Be Unacceptable (Editorial)

EDITORIAL

Over the last week or so, we’ve heard about two school boards in the area chickening out when they’re faced with the proverbial angry mob.

The “angry mob” in these cases are pissed that schools have been ordered by an Acting state Health Secretary to implement a mask mandate. This order came just weeks after the state let local school boards decide on their own whether or not to implement an indoor mask policy.

Many did not. And in our local cases, both North Schuylkill School District and Williams Valley School District did not. North Schuylkill actually did pre-empt the state’s order and reinstituted masks in schools before ordered to do so.

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Neither school showed any hesitancy in implementing its mask mandate. And, certainly, neither will entertain going the route Tamaqua Area School District choose in defying the mandate. That’s not sitting well with a lot of parents and taxpayers.

But rather than face the music and listen to people vent their frustrations with them, the school boards opted to hide from the proverbial mob.

That’s unacceptable.

Williams Valley was the first to do it. The school board tried to prevent members of the public from entering the school last week unless they were wearing a mask. That didn’t go over well. Some people got inside and eventually, the school board somehow voted – without officially convening a meeting – to postpone their meeting.

North Schuylkill did the same last week, to a degree. According to a report in the Republican Herald newspaper, people were actually attending the school board’s Committee meeting prior to their regular board meeting and not wearing masks. But when the regular school board meeting was about to convene and people weren’t wearing masks – and threatened with ejection if they didn’t put one on – the school board hid and then came out and canceled the meeting.

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Again, it’s unacceptable. Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you and that’s all people want to do … speak their mind. They have every right to and every school board member is sworn to listen.

If a school board member wants to lie and say they felt their safety was at risk, we should point out that no one at either meeting was arrested, to the best of our knowledge. And based on our experiences at similarly heated school board meetings in Tamaqua, Blue Mountain, and Hamburg, there’s no reason to hide.

Sure, people can get a little loud. Remember, this is an issue which has fueled a lot of passionate arguments over the last 18 months or so. It’s not illegal to be passionate about a subject. And elected school board members should be prepared to hear it and deal with it.

Hiding as these board members did last week only works to frustrate and infuriate people more. It shows arrogance on their part. These people can vote to take away a person’s home but can’t be bothered to listen to someone complain about their policy decision simply because that person refused to wear a mask indoors.

Even if you support mask mandates in schools, this habit of school boards ducking from a difficult conversation should concern you. The next time they do it, it could be about something to which you’re passionately opposed.

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Photo: Depositphotos

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