Elizabethtown Area School District

When: Elizabethtown Area school board meeting, Sept. 14.

What happened: More than 50 of the approximately 140 citizens in attendance expressed their concerns to the Elizabethtown school board about students wearing masks at school as protection from COVID-19. Because of the recent order by the state Department of Health that all people wear face coverings while in school buildings, attendees were required to wear masks to the meeting.

Public comment: As one pro-mask parent, Rachel Rank, put it, “We are all here because we’re concerned about our kids and our community.” About a dozen speakers expressed support for the mask requirement. Most speakers were against masks being required and demanded that parents be given a choice. “I’m calling for you to resign if you don’t want to give us the choice,” Dan Matthews told the board. “You can take your masks, you can take your Marxism and you can stick it.” Said Bobbi Thompson: “If you are afraid, OK, wear your mask, but let other people live the way that they choose. It’s America. It’s called liberty.” Many parents expressed concerns for their children’s well-being, and some likened mask-wearing to child abuse. Some criticized contact-tracing, quarantining and the exemption process. Others questioned the legality of the state mandate and suggested the district seek other legal advice.

Students speak: Among the speakers were students, including 12-year-old Isaac Elicker, who said by Zoom that school feels like a prison and that wearing a mask makes him feel anxious and like he can’t breathe. Some high school girls described how masks cause them anxiety, depression, light-headedness and difficulty concentrating. “We want our lives to go back to normal and live like normal teens,” said freshman Hannah Carter.

Quotable: “I hate masks. I hate them,” said Heather Croft. “I am thankful for them because they’ve kept my family safe.”

Superintendent’s response: Superintendent Michele Balliet acknowledged that these opinions are “pretty strong and pretty divided.” She added that it doesn’t mean district officials aren’t listening or don’t care if they don’t do what people ask. “We’re trying to operate a school the best we possibly can with the information that we have,” Balliet said.

Board president’s response: “This order, as it stands right now, is a legal order that necessitates our school district and all others to follow. Therefore, we must and will follow it until it is revoked or overturned,” board President Terry Seiders said. “As a school board, we do not have the authority to declare a legally issued law, mandate or order illegal or unconstitutional.”

Exemptions: Following public comment, board members and administrators discussed the process for students to receive an exemption from wearing a face covering, which may require a doctor’s note.

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