After homeschooling our kids last year, my husband and I decided to send them back to school this fall. COVID rates were down over the summer, and we were all excited to return to the Christian school community we’ve grown to love over the past six years. Back to friends! Back to teachers! Back to hot lunch, art, music, library, recess! And sadly, as fall drew closer, back to COVID-19 concerns.
As COVID numbers began to soar again in August, we prepared our kids for the reality that they might be in the minority of students wearing a mask. Masks weren’t required this year. But the Friday before classes were to begin, our county health department issued a public health order for all educational institutions. It requires universal masking for prekindergarten through sixth grade students and staff working with them. We breathed a prayer of thanks.
The school board met that Sunday night. After hours of deliberation, they emailed out a new policy. Masks would be required. But, the policy assured, “we will accept a parent’s written representation that your child cannot medically tolerate a face covering.”
Which effectively made masks optional.
My husband and I immediately wrote to the principal about our concerns. I was invited to share them at the next board meeting, which happened last week.
The board chair set a positive tone in his opening prayer and comments. I was grateful for this, but I also felt scared and alone. In a room of two dozen people, only I and one other person wore a mask, despite the CDC recommendation that everyone in areas of high transmission should wear a mask in public places, even if they are fully vaccinated.
Four parents shared how grateful they are that the board allowed parents to decide what’s best for their kids. One mom spoke about how dangerous and ineffective masks are. One dad said mask recommendations are “political” and COVID isn’t a threat to our kids. Another parent urged the board to allow vaccine exemptions “without scrutiny” if the health department mandates them. “Stay the course,” he urged.
Two of us shared concerns about the school’s current policy and posture toward public health guidance. The other parent voiced his confusion and disappointment. He marveled that people have decided to send their kids to our school not because they’ll receive an exceptional Christian education, but because they don’t have to wear a mask.
Below is what I said at the school board meeting.
It doesn’t appear that anything will change at our kids’ school as a result of the meeting. Most parents seem to like things the way they are, and the school is unlikely to face consequences for their noncompliance. The county health department appears unable to enforce their own order. They are overwhelmed. It is hard for the health director to do his job when people try to run him off the road and shout expletives at him. (Dr. London, I am praying for you and your family.)
Even though nothing may change, I still feel the burden to speak truth and encourage others to do the same. As a wise theologian has pointed out, the secular world presupposes that “consequences measure the moral worth of an action—that only consequences count.” But, he went on to say, “Jesus Christ, the Messiah, did the right thing, regardless of consequences. He did not think the moral worth of an action was determined by results. He simply did the right thing.” So we should do the right things too, even when we are in a minority. We can wear masks, get vaccinated, and encourage others to do the same. Schools and churches can take a courageous stance, knowing they will get backlash, in order to protect vulnerable people in their communities.
For my brothers and sisters in Christ who are unconvinced of the seriousness of the pandemic, shake off the conspiracy theories and half-truths that so easily entangle. Learn how to spot fake science. Don’t fall for foolish claims that mask and vaccine mandates are a form of Christian persecution. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).
For all of us, I pray “that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
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