School year 2021-22, Week 12
An Open Letter to the Blue Valley School District
For over a year — ever since the first attempt to implement public health policy in response to the COVID pandemic — a vocal minority of our community has cultivated anger and resentment to build a “parents movement.” This movement culminated last week in the election of two new school board members, driven by ideological fury and national rhetoric about critical race theory and misinformation about vaccine and mask safety and efficacy.
The following week, the school board voted to remove mask requirements in high school buildings in a 6-1 vote. I cannot claim any inside knowledge of how that decision was reached, but it was clear that the decision had been made earlier in the day before public comments from the community.
Four days later, the school district reported 75 new COVID cases, a tripling from a week prior. Twenty-four of our 35 buildings reported cases; the prior week, only 10. It is as if this stealthy virus spontaneously erupted throughout the community over the Halloween break and infected itself in parties and social gatherings.
Nobody should be surprised, because this is exactly what happened last year. This inflection point marked the beginning of the Winter Wave, where over 1,000 students caught ill between November and January. Sadly, we seem prepared and willing to repeat this experience again in 2021-22.
If the school board had invited anyone from the county health department to speak and present their recommendations, they would have been told to keep the mask mandate. If the school board had surveyed the community in a methodologically sound manner, they would have learned that the majority of the district’s students, parents, and patrons support current safety protocols and would continue to support them through the winter.
Instead, a noisy minority of parents continues to bully their way through our governing bodies, insisting that their opinion demands greater attention and respect than that of others.
I am only one parent, but I am not alone in my views. What I have learned through observation of these past 15 months and the recent election campaigns is that pressure and harassment are more effective policy tools than rational thought and scientific research; that all I need to do to get my way is to say it louder and incessantly; that the only way to stop a motivated bully is to punch them in the rhetorical face. You can expect to see continued strife in the community, at board meetings, and (perhaps) within the board itself until you decisively stare down your aggressors.
By humoring the anti-science crowd, you have empowered them. By not forcefully rejecting their claims, you have endorsed their claims. If that was your intention, then so be it, but own your convictions.
Most importantly, you need to plan now for how the district will deal with COVID in the coming years. The disease will not disappear, and we clearly lack the communal will to pull together as one in support of public health attestations, so the inevitable outcome will be continued spikes of infections, randomly, in perpetuity.
Parent, Blue Valley School District
For the 7 days of November 4 to 10, 2021: