BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — For 15 minutes, parents ran the show at Brevard County Schools.
Thursday night’s meeting was bound to be contentious: a controversial proposal to reinstate a mask mandate was added to the agenda, sending pro- and anti-mask groups into a frenzy in the ruby red corner of Central Florida.
People waving American flags lined the sidewalk, while a sign reading “Don’t DeathSantis my daughter,” could be seen from the front row. The pro-mask crowd was outnumbered by as much as three to one.
Tensions flared early, brought on by the presence of Florida Department of Health officials who calmly answered questions peppered by the board. A man walked out, comparing the situation to Nazi Germany.
Board members themselves almost lost their tempers when one brought up a report that suggested COVID tests were showing positive for the flu virus. The health official explained that the report was a misinterpretation of a CDC memo.
Nothing, though, matched the chaos of the start of the mask debate. As a board member explained that she had faced threats and harassment from members of the community, anti-mask audience members began shouting. Security asked all board members and the district superintendent to leave the room.
Yelling and debates among parents persisted for about 15 minutes until the board members returned.
“I am in high school walking up and down stairs, and I can’t even breathe,” one teen, who called herself Alyssa, said. “I literally had to go to the doctor because I got an infection in my throat.”
Members of the pro-mask group cited rising cases and the high number of hospitalizations due to the delta variant, asking the board to require masks for kids until transmissions reduced.
“I lost my mother to the virus back in 2020,” a man said, “This virus… is two mutations away from solving the population problem on the planet.”
Board members voted to place masks on their August 10 agenda, with Jennifer Jenkins, a former teacher saying the district needed to bite the bullet and make a decision.
“We got flooded with concerns and emails like it was COVID starting all over again and I feel like the public had a right to hear where we stood on this issue,” she said.
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