On Monday, August 2, Milford School District Board of Education held a meeting with only nine items on the agenda. After a short recess into executive session, the board returned to approve the minutes from the July 19 meeting and then took public comment. All public comment was related to the recent CDC recommendation that students and staff continue to wear masks while inside school buildings.
“I have three early elementary aged kids going into fourth, second and first,” Dustin Yoder said. “My kids are choiced to Sussex Montessori School, but one of my kids did attend here for one year and, depending on what you do, they may end up back here. My opinion is that masks are being used a political tool and I think it is wrong because it involves our kids. I think any reasonable person who looks at the science and past the politics will see that our kids are not in danger from this. One think the science cannot tell you is that our brains and the brains of children are made to develop by seeing faces, seeing and expressing emotions. The science also cannot tell you what these two years of covering faces is going to do to children in the future. Do the right thing by our kids and let them smile, let them see each other’s faces. Let’s hopefully not let them be used as pawns in the game the adults are playing.”
Heather Fitzgerald, who began teaching in Milford School District in 2005 but has since left the district, disagreed with Yoder.
“Data driven decision making. Student first decision making,” Fitzgerald said. “These were tenets I learned as a new teacher when I started at Milford School District. As a parent navigating through a pandemic, I have gone back to those tenets. For some reason, people have a fundamental problem yielding to experts. I don’t. I have no problem listening to the actual experts, not those on Facebook or YouTube.”
Fitzgerald stated that there are mask recommendations for children under the age of 12 while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends masks for children six and older. She also pointed out that the CDC recommends masks for non-vaccinated people and, as of July 28, for vaccinated people who are indoors.
“My daughter is not eligible for the vaccination,” Fitzgerald said. “Her mask is protecting her. Her teacher’s mask is protecting her. Her classmate’s mask is protecting her. Much like the vaccines required of every child who attends public school are given for public safety. Not wearing a mask and not being vaccinated is a choice that puts others in danger. We all had hope in May and June and that has been so quickly taken away. I don’t want to wear a mask. I hate it. But the Delta variant doesn’t care about my discomfort. So, I will do it to keep my daughter safe. The entire landscape with COVID has changed. Where other variants of the virus did not impact children, there are children in the South who are in the hospital, some on ventilators. Delaware is just a few weeks away from dealing with what other states are dealing with. I am sorry the board is having to make this decision as it should be coming from the top. It has been shoved off on you. I just hope you use data driven decisions as that method has served this district well.”
Another parent, Katie Mumford, spoke to the board about her own children.
“I strongly believe it should be optional for children to wear masks,” Mumford said. “It should be the parent’s choice. Parents should be the one deciding if there is a need for children to wear masks. Data is showing that children do not get serious COVID infections, and it is not their job nor should it be their responsibility to protect others. Research has shown masks can be harmful to children. My daughter is adamant she will not go to school this year if she has to wear a mask. She used to be able to play with other children and laugh with them, now she has been made to feel fearful of that. My son wore a mask in school last year and suffered chronic headaches that I fully believe were due to the mask.”
Mumford also questioned the effectiveness of masks and agreed with Yoder that children need to see smiles and faces as part of their development. She also understands that others are fearful and understands why they would want to send their own child in wearing a mask, but that she felt she should also have an option to not force masks on her children.
“I am a Marine Corp veteran,” Matt Pelugi said. “I had all kinds of vaccines put into my body and taken medications I was forced to take without any say. I will never let anyone do that to me again. I don’t have children, but every single one of you has the right to determine what is best for your children. We may have heard from the greatest scientific minds in the world, but that does not matter. They are not going to be held responsible when something happens. Masks do not work.”
Pelugi continued, stating that he was a nurse in a long-term care facility and pointed out that even medical and N95 masks were meant for one-time use, not to be worn all day.
“You are not meant to breathe in the bacteria your body is putting out all day,” Pelugi said. “There have been studies and parents have actually taken their child’s mask that they have worn all day to be tested, only to find it was filled with bacteria. You are also taxpayers. They cannot expel your child if you refuse to allow them to wear masks. The main thing I am saying is do not comply. The people up here will have the final say on what happens, but I can tell you they do not have the right to tell you what to do with your kids. As for whether to wear masks or get vaccinated, as a free people you have a right which decision to make. Our grades, our education system, the money we put into it as far as the world goes with education, we’re putting all this money in and we can’t even put our kids in school. We need to be more worried about preparing our kids for life than whether they are wearing a mask. My main point is that I will not comply. If there are lockdowns or mask requirements, I will not comply. I will stand up with anyone else who does not comply. We have a right to do that. Civil disobedience.”
Under the rules of the Board of Education, members could not respond to any of those who spoke at the meeting.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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