What a circus the June 17th School Board Rule Development Meeting was! At that meeting addressing mask policy changes, Chair Jacobs stated that she was a “rule follower”. We are confused. Dozens of unmasked citizens were allowed into the RBELC and into the school board meeting room even though the School Board protocol posted on their website states: “The public is required to wear a mask in order to enter into the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center (RBELC).”
Parents and others signed up to speak in the lobby - most were not wearing masks, as multiple OCPS law enforcement officers ignored the violations. They then filled the board room, sitting shoulder to shoulder without masks. Finally, eight minutes into the meeting, after a moment of silence, the pledge, and the explanation of the proposed mask rule, Chair Jacobs ordered the audience members to put on masks.
Jacobs stated, “If you do not have a mask on, I’m going to ask you to leave. So either put the mask on or leave or we’ll take a recess until we can remove the people from the audience who are not wearing a mask. . . No masks are going on we’re going to recess.”
After dozens of audience members refused to put masks on, the entire board walked out of the room for a ten-minutes recess leaving the rest of us in a room with shouting, unmasked people. No effective action was taken to enforce the policy and none of those refusing to wear masks were “removed” despite refusal to follow the policy. An OCPS officer and Scott Howat tried to calmly explain why they needed to put their masks on. Some put masks on, some did not. No one was removed. Rule follower?
There was a second recess called when audience members jeered at Judi Hayes, a parent speaking passionately about the need to address the vulnerability of special needs students, including her own child. She expressed concern that children under 12 currently have no vaccine available and how relaxing the mask policy for elementary schools will conflict with the ADA Act leaving them with fewer options than their peers. Judi spoke after Jack, her eighth grade son, spoke eloquently about his younger brother’s need for protection.
After Judi stated, “You’re going to hear a lot of nonsense today. You’re going to see a lot of people with their thumbs down, and their red shirts because they want to make America sick again”, she was interrupted by jeers and outbursts from the crowd. Jacobs called another recess, this time to restore order. The entire school board once again exited the room.
Watching this meeting I couldn’t help but think of the teachers who are routinely hauled into Professional Standards to receive a reprimand or directive for not following school board policies. The School Board's recesses and dramatic exit of the room did nothing to effectively enforce their own policies. No one was removed for mask violations or incivility. Those following procedures had to sit there and endure ignorant remarks and bad behavior. We need to demand that our "leaders" enforce rules.
The revised mask policy is at this link. It calls for optional face masks. It also has a provision that calls for the superintendent to implement more restrictive mask requirements depending on guidance from the CDC or other governmental entities. CTA agrees with the Medical Advisory Committee and the speakers who support maintaining a mandatory mask policy for children under age 12. We need to follow scientists and medical experts when making policies that could have life or death consequences. The Orlando Sentinel quoted Dr. Annette Neilsen: “Until they can be vaccinated … we have a civic and medical and moral duty to protect them,” said Dr. Annette Nielsen, a Lake Nona pediatrician and a member of the board’s medical advisory committee. “Let’s keep a mask on these kiddos until they and their families have a chance to be vaccinated.”
One has to wonder why does this School Board have a Medical Advisory Committee if they do not follow their advice.
The union objects to the repeated suggestion that the extension of the School Board mask policy was because of a Memorandum of Understanding that was negotiated and signed by both CTA and the District. The MOU was repeatedly referred to as the “CTA” or the “union’s” MOU. Here’s a chronological list of the OCPS mask policy developments:
The District too often implies that CTA is responsible for policies and mandates that they the District created or collaboratively negotiated and signed off on with the Union!
Some media coverage on the meeting: