Schools

Tennessee parents make threats after school board mandates masks

"There were people screaming and threatening me, and I just couldn't believe it."


After a school board in Franklin, Tenn., voted on Tuesday night to require masks at local elementary schools, dozens of angry parents gathered outside the building and started chanting: “We will not comply!”

A video of the unruly parents, which has amassed 2.7 million views since it was posted early Wednesday, shows some anti-mask parents aim their scorn directly at their pro-mask peers.

“There’s a place for you guys – there’s a bad place in hell,” one anti-mask parent said.

Another parent approached a man sitting in his car, identified by WTVF as one of the health care experts who testified at the school board meeting, and pointed at him. “We know who you are,” the parent said. “You can leave freely, but we will find you.”

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The rowdy scene capped a nearly four-hour Williamson County Board of Education meeting in which parents debated whether elementary students should be required to wear masks at school until Sept. 21. In Tennessee, covid-19 cases among children nearly doubled in July, and a surge of another illness – respiratory syncytial virus – has left children’s hospitals in the state with fewer beds to meet the covid surge, the Tennessean reported.

In mid-July, the Tennessee’s top immunization official, Michelle Fiscus, was fired from the Tennessee Department of Health in what she says was retaliation for her efforts to let teenagers choose whether to take the coronavirus vaccine. Days before she was fired, a dog muzzle was anonymously mailed to her office.

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At one point during the Williamson County school board meeting on Tuesday, deputies escorted out a man who was being disruptive. Dozens of parents followed him out, chanting, “No more masks!” according to another widely viewed video.

“It was hard to fathom,” Meredith Duke, a surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and mother of four kids at Williamson County schools, told WSMV.

Duke said she wore a white coat and a mask to the meeting, and it was not hard to know which position she took. She had to be escorted out because she feared for her safety.

“There were people screaming and threatening me, and I just couldn’t believe it,” Duke recalled.

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The scene in Franklin was only the latest display of resistance against covid-19 precautions coming from the streets of small cities and the desks of politicians alike. In July, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting government entities in the state from issuing mask mandates. Meanwhile, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is battling school districts that defy his executive order banning schools from requiring masks.

But Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee has, so far, held off on such a ban. He told reporters on Monday that school boards have a right to make decisions about students wearing masks.

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​​”Those school boards are elected locally in those communities,” Lee said, according to the Tennessean. “And those school boards should listen to the parents, and parents should have an option in that.”

Tennessee Republicans are nevertheless pushing to curtail the power of local school boards to continue setting their own masking policies. More than 70 Republican members of the state House are pressuring Lee to call a special session aimed at masking in schools. The governor has not said whether he’ll grant the request, according to the Tennessean.

One Tennessee woman made it clear in recent weeks that she thinks masking among children is crucial. On July 31, Mirsada Muric posted a photo to Facebook of her 9-year-old daughter ventilated in a hospital bed.

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“LOOK AT MY CHILD,” Muric wrote. “THIS is why people are afraid. THIS is why people beg for you to wear a mask. Who are you hurting by wearing one? What freaking rights are you losing?! Because, while I sit here and watch a machine [breathe] for my baby, you are out living.”

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