To mask or not to mask: Boardman school board keeps mandate
BOARDMAN — The Boardman Board of Education voted to continue the district’s mask requirement despite demands to lift the mandate from parents — who said they refuse to “co-parent” with the board.
The board had its monthly meeting Monday night, three weeks after a special meeting it called to discuss the initial 20-day mandate. Many of the same concerned parents and community members who voiced their concerns three weeks ago spoke again Monday.
“The first time we had this meeting, we came here calm, cool and collected, we voiced our concerns, we gave you data, evidence, pure facts,” said Joel McEndry, a parent of a student in the district. “We didn’t get one email, one phone call, not even a text message back. Are you even paying attention to us? Who do you work for?”
All 10 parents who addressed the board opposed the mask requirement. The majority of them stated it should be left to the parents to decide whether their children should wear a mask to school, and they believe the board is overstepping and “infringing on their parental rights.”
The board voted unanimously to continue the mask requirement after hearing all of the comments. Superintendent Tim Saxton backed up the decision with several graphs that cited local and state data showing an increase in cases among school-aged children over the past few months. He made the point that masking allows students to continue in-person learning even if they are exposed to a positive case.
This year, there has been one student quarantined on average for every positive case within the district. Last year, there were five students quarantined for every positive case. So far 46 positive cases have been identified within the district. Parents questioned why there are still students quarantined with a mask mandate, and Saxton explained that students can be exposed during lunch and gym when masks are removed.
Several in attendance expressed anger toward what they said is a lack of communication between the district and parents. Many of the participants said they felt as though their concerns were being ignored by the board.
Georgia Kalafut, another parent of district students, said she sent an email expressing her concerns after the previous meeting to two principals, Saxton and board president Vickie Davis and did not hear back. Kalafut said she is “livid” at the board’s decision and does not want the board to govern her children’s medical choices.
Kalafut said she questioned the fact that students are allowed to participate in sports without a mask. The board previously stated that sports are voluntary, and students do not have to participate.
Parents repeatedly said the mask requirement is child abuse and cited studies that claim mask wearing to be ineffective and do more harm than good.
Parent Kris Gardner, a cancer survivor, maintained that wearing a mask leads to “tumor growth due to a lack of oxygen.” She told the board it will be held accountable for “healthy children being diagnosed with cancerous tumors.”
Larry Pitner said his 10-year-old daughter had high hopes when she entered the school year, but the mask requirement has made the semester more difficult. Pitner said his daughter’s medical choices should be left to him as a parent.
“The decision for the masks should be left to the parent, not to the school,” Pitner said. “I’m not going to co-parent with the school.”
The board did not set a time frame to revisit the mask mandate and did not answer parents when asked if it will be reconsidered at a later date or if cases decrease.