This week, the school board in my county was ambushed by the Hanover Patriots, the repackaged Hanover Militia, a group that regularly stirs controversy in our county, protesting changing the names of our Confederate named schools, vaccines, teaching critical race theory, gun control measures, and, at this meeting, our statewide mask mandates for public schools. Guess who won? The science deniers.
I’m frankly not entirely surprised at the school board’s decision. The vitriol displayed during this meeting was violent enough that sheriff’s deputies threatened removal and a recess had to be called. It’s truly embarrassing.
But my real disappointment and disgust lies with our school board, who voted to make masks “optional,” going against both state law and CDC guidelines as well as the recommendation of our superintendent. They broke the promise they made when we had to make a binding choice to send our kids to school in person or enroll in online school that they would follow CDC recommendations. My teenager learned virtually last year. She is vaccinated, but I still fear that the Delta or other new variants will make her sick. I’m very concerned for the health and safety of younger children who cannot get vaccinated yet. I’m concerned for teachers who are, once again, placing their health in danger, as many were forced to teach in person last year. I expected more from our school officials. So much more.
Here is my response:
To the Hanover County School Board:
I don’t know why I’m even bothering to write this, because any correspondence I’ve ever sent has been met with complete silence in the past. Yet, I am compelled to express my astonishment with your decision at this week’s school board meeting.
In June, when you made us lock in a decision about sending our children to participate in person for learning vs. online school, you made a promise that you would follow CDC guidelines with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic. And then we watched a bunch of misinformed bullies browbeat you into going back on your word. I had not planned to attend this meeting because I don’t care to get involved in the nonsense that we expected and actually came to fruition. It’s embarrassing. The Hanover Patriots are a part of a very well orchestrated plan across the country to influence decision making in our school systems, and you played into their plan just as they had hoped. They won.
And this is more than unfortunate. It’s dangerous. As a hospital based physical therapist, I have treated both patients with active Covid infections and those recovering from its effects. This virus is very, very real. I’m exhausted trying to convince conspiracy theorists otherwise. I wish science deniers could see what I see: patients gasping for breath, their oxygen levels dropping to dangerous levels by simply walking across the room; heart rates reaching uncomfortably high levels with minimal activity; the look of panic in the eyes of someone who can’t catch their breath; the deep regret expressed by patients who thought this virus was no big deal, and now find themselves gravely ill. I wish you could feel the heartache of healthcare providers when we lose patients we have bonded with over the course of weeks of treatment, only to succumb to this virus. I wish you could understand what it takes to help someone who has been intubated for weeks, resulting in ICU induced myopathy, to slowly gain strength and mobility again. It’s a long road.
And now your actions will be a part of what will prolong our fight with this virus. Shame on you. I’m tired of being a part of society that’s picking up the slack from the deniers. But this is what I’m called to do, and I will continue to do my part. But I’m exhausted, just like every other healthcare provider. And I’m really tired of wearing N95 masks. The least you can do is comply with Virginia state law and CDC guidelines. Believe the science. Believe your healthcare providers. Otherwise, you’ve just been played by a bunch of bullies.
Parents trusted you to do the right thing, and now you betrayed our trust. You are asking our children to enter a learning environment unprotected from this virus. Masks work best when everyone wears them. I’m sure some entity on the state level will step in and undo this wrong, but I really thought our county officials would follow the science and the law, not the whims of conspiracy theorists. Do better, Hanover.
I actually received an almost immediate response from one board member who is in support of mask mandates. He was also quick to reply that he supports everyone’s “constitutional freedoms” and “limited government.” But prioritizes student and staff safety. That’s something. I just wish those in favor of doing what is in the best interests for public health were a bit more convincing of their colleagues than the bullies. Sigh.
For the science deniers, I hope you like learning about Darwinism. Because I’m fairly confident we will be getting a lesson from the universe on this very topic over the course of the next school year.
***Edited to add a link to an article about the governor’s response here.***
Do you have school aged children? Is your school system planning on complying with CDC recommendations this school year? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.