Parents speak out: Crowd gathers against mask mandate during BCS board meeting

Published 3:56 pm Monday, August 23, 2021

Executive order rescinded

A small crowd gathered Thursday evening at the Boyle County Schools board of education meeting in the seats provided in the Boyle County Middle School library, and about five of them spoke directly during the meeting against mandatory masks in schools under Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order.

Beshear rescinded his executive order on Monday following a state Supreme Court ruling, according to the Courier-Journal. However, BCS Superintendent Mike LaFavers explained on Monday that the Kentucky Department of Education’s emergency regulation mandating masks in schools is still in effect as of Monday, Aug. 23, so unless the KDE also overturns their regulation, their mandate still stands.

A small crowd, some of whom are pictured, gathered at the board meeting Aug. 19 in the Boyle County Middle School library to express concern surrounding the mask mandate in schools. – Photo by Olivia Mohr

A few parents had the following concerns on Thursday, before the governor rescinded his order.

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Savannah Lester, who led an initiative on Facebook called “Unmask Our Children” with the hashtag #LetKidsBeKids, to take place during the board meeting, was one of the people who spoke. She said during public comment that as a parent, she asked for choices, transparent policy, and a “better solution” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID is here to stay,” she said. “Are we going to force masks on our children every time the numbers go up?”

Daniel Coffman, another parent who spoke, said his daughter attends Perryville Elementary School and has asthma, and “You’ve got to consider the adverse effects besides just this virus. Nobody’s talking about the psychological, emotional effects these children are bearing.”

Later, he said, “What we’re telling them is, stay away from everybody, because everybody could potentially be killing them.”

He said as a parent of a child who has refused to wear a mask several times, he and other parents need to know what the consequences of breaking the mask mandate are, “black and white, on paper.”

Amber Ramey, who spoke, said she has children who attend Perryville Elementary School, BCMS, and Boyle County High School. She said her oldest son has a lung condition and anxiety, and he was recommended last year to not attend school in-person because of his lung condition.

“This year, I felt like mental health is more important than the COVID,” she said.

She said wearing a mask all day at school is also difficult for her son due to both anxiety and his lung condition.

As for her younger children, she said, they have lost their masks throughout the school day and have found the mask mandate on buses hasn’t always been enforced. She said she also wants more clarity on what consequences are for breaking the mask mandate.

To this, LaFavers said employees of the school district are not permitted to willfully allow people to not wear masks when in school buildings, regardless of what they think personally. He said the district will work on better clarifying policy, communication and consequences.

Prior to public comment and before any of the parents spoke, LaFavers outlined the different regulations around masks that have come from decision makers. On Aug. 5, the board announced their plans for local control regarding masks, initially wanting to give families the choice on whether their children would mask up. On Aug. 10, Gov. Beshear announced the executive order mandating masks in public schools, the day before the Boyle school district started their first day of school. Then on Aug. 11, the Kentucky Department of Education announced guidance mandating masks in schools.

LaFavers said a lot of the district’s funding is local — the district is being locally funded approximately $10.7 this year, but about twice as much funding comes from the state this year at approximately $21.9 million.

To that, he said, “While we like local control, and when given that opportunity, the board here, the administrative team, our staff — we seize it when we have that opportunity to be in control of our own destiny. We do realize we are a public agency, and we couldn’t do without that $21,900,000 — it’s just not possible. So we have to adhere to regulations from the Kentucky Board of Education and laws from the legislature, and — like it or not — we have to adhere to executive orders.”

He said even if the executive order were overturned, which he said has been “back and forth in courts” and is now rescinded, the school district still has the KDE regulation as it stands, which mandates masks.