Stories of anti-mask violence at school board meetings are taking over the internet. Every day it seems that another school district is encountering violence at the hands of anti-maskers who would rather resort to violence than simply put on a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19. Parents of children across the country are not only threatening school and health officials in favor of masks in schools, but physically assaulting them under the guise of their parental rights being violated.
In at least two states, Nevada and Pennsylvania, meetings have progressed from verbal arguments to physical violence as a result requiring police presence. But that’s not all: Despite arrests and criminal charges being thrown at some protesters, anti-maskers are not backing away from their violence. In a recent incident, parents and attendees of an Iowa school board meeting erupted in violence when the board passed a requirement to wear masks.
At least 40 people spoke about the mask mandate prior to Tuesday’s vote at Ankeny Community School District’s meeting to discuss a potential mask mandate. Following a 5-2 vote by the Ankeny School Board, it was confirmed that a mask mandate would start in the school district Thursday, KCCI reported. Public comments lasted about two hours, with multiple individuals interpreting others as they spoke. But that’s not all: After the mask mandate was passed, many not only refused to comply with the mandate but threatened school board members.
Attendees shouted threats including: “We know where you live! We’re going to stalk you! We’re coming to your house!”
The meeting follows similar headlines including one in which a Michigan county health director shared that a woman tried to run him off the road after he backed a school mask mandate, Daily Kos reported.
“I need help. My team and I are broken. I’m about done. I’ve done my job to the best of my ability. I’ve given just about everything to Kent County, and now I’ve given some more of my safety,” Kent County Health Department Director Dr. Adam London said in a letter to county commissioners. The letter outlined his reasons for issuing the public health mandate requiring students to wear masks this fall.
While multiple polls indicate a majority of Americans support mask mandates, school confrontations and harassment of school board officials and teachers have been rampant.
In Kansas, officials in one county were confronted by angry unmasked protesters who compared them to the Taliban and leaders of Japanese internment camps for enforcing masks in schools.
Similar incidents have occurred in other states including Texas, in which school officials shared that a parent in an Austin district allegedly assaulted a teacher by ripping off her face mask while others yelled at another teacher, claiming they couldn't understand what she was saying due to the face covering.
Anti-mask parents aren’t just targeting school staff and education professionals, they are also attacking children. In a recent incident, police arrested and charged the father of a Florida high school student after the man allegedly pushed a schoolgirl during an anti-mask protest, NBC News reported.
But this violence isn’t limited to just Southern or “conservative” states. In California, a parent left a teacher not only bleeding but requiring hospital treatment after the parent attacked the teacher over masks, KCRA-TV reported.
“The teachers have definitely been on edge. They are fearful because the last thing they want is to have an issue with a parent,” Torie Gibson, superintendent of California's Amador County Unified School District, told the AP.
Out of fear, some schools have even postponed meetings discussing masks.
According to WRAL, a North Carolina school postponed its board meeting discussing a mask mandate for students after receiving a threatening letter regarding school mask policies. Prior to the meeting's cancellation, the Moore County Board of Education moved the meeting to the district's central office, where there was a heightened police presence—yet this did not stop threats from coming. More than 100 parents and children still held an anti-mask rally outside the office before the decision to cancel the meeting was made.
Lawmakers across the nation are encouraging these meetings to discuss mask policies despite our country still being in a pandemic because many believe policies requiring masks may not be needed. But the result is not only heated political battles at school board meetings, but violence and harassment of school board members and health professionals.
Our officials, especially those in the GOP, need to step up and take responsibility for the spread of misinformation and mask bans. Without encouraging people to wear masks and get vaccinated, we will never recover from this pandemic and violence will continue.