BOE members say they are following expert advice to keep masks on
KEYSER – Despite a parent’s second request on Tuesday to either rescind the mask’s mandate or resign, the Mineral County Board of Education agreed on Tuesday to keep the mandate in place.
Matthew Hansford had appeared before the board on October 19 and was again at the meeting on Tuesday in opposition to the mandate imposed by the board in August.
“I am here to remind you that you have been elected; the people chose you to represent them, not to govern them, ”Hansford told the board. “You have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States as well as the Constitution of West Virginia. You are in violation of both Constitutions, ”he declared. You cannot make an unconstitutional warrant, and yet you did.
“What about freedom of religion? He asked. “Have you ever thought that this might violate someone’s beliefs?” I assure you that this violates mine, ”he said.
“Subjecting growing young people to wearing a mask is unusual, and certainly not humanitarian. I think we can all agree that the requirement to wear masks is cruel and unusual punishment for students and staff. “
Hansford questioned the basis for the board’s decision in August to require masks.
“You trust the health department’s A. Jay Root’s decision, but he’s just repeating the numbers and the county repeating the CDC’s recommendations. Guess what? The CDC says “recommendation”. It is not a warrant. They know they have no authority to impose such unconstitutional mandates, ”he said.
Hansford asked board members if they had looked at studies on the negative effects of wearing masks and urged them to cancel their order.
“You appeased people with the Mask Warrant long enough. It’s time to appease those who don’t want it. Let them choose whether or not they want to wear a mask, ”he said.
“Once again, I ask you to make amends for what you have done wrong… or to resign,” he concluded.
Neither Superintendent Troy Ravenscroft nor members of the board were affected by Hansford’s argument, however.
“I checked with our neighbors on the Eastern Panhandle… as it is, there has been no change in the mask requirements,” Ravenscroft said.
“I spoke with the Department of Health, with Mr. Root, to get his opinion, and at the moment his recommendation is that we don’t change what we have in place.”
The five board members agreed.
Donnie Ashby said he was worried not only for the students but also for any family members they could be exposing to COVID if they didn’t wear a mask at school.
He is also concerned about the education time that students have missed due to the pandemic.
“I was the one who pushed the kids to go back to school,” he said. “If this (mask warrant) was a way to get the kids back to school, I’m sorry, but I have to go.” These children need an education; they have already lost too much, ”he said. “They are way behind.”
“I take what Mr. Root is saying to heart,” said Terry Puffinburger, adding, “It’s his job to study the statistics.”
Puffinburger said he believed quarantine statistics in the county’s school system were dropping due to the mask’s tenure, and added “all we can do to keep them physically in school … is a good thing”.
“We have to take care of our most vulnerable people,” said Tom Denne, agreeing that requiring masks could have prevented students or a family member from catching COVID.
“My position right now is stronger than it was in August when we said these masks should stay in place. Given that we still have over a hundred active cases in Mineral County alone, given that those hundred cases are likely to come in contact with someone in our schools every day, I cannot take the risk saying let’s take the masks, he said.
“I also met Mr. Root, and I researched and contacted people at WVU, and I’m firm in saying that we have to keep the masks.”
Vice-chair of the board, Mary Jane Baniak, said she also based her decision to keep the tenure on research.
“WVU Children’s Hospital and the American Academy of Pediatrics West Virginia Chapter have recommended that schools have mask mandates and that has not changed,” she said.
“They recommended this over the summer before school started and it hasn’t changed. These are people who have been studying this for a very long time; that’s what they do for a living. And I will definitely take their advice, ”she added.
“We keep the kids in school and that’s our goal. I really don’t see any reason why we would change what we’re doing right now.
“We just have to follow what the medical experts say,” agreed President Lara Courrier. “If the health department or WVU Medicine thinks this is what we need to do, then this is what we need to do. “
Liz Beavers is a seasoned writer and editor-in-chief of the Mineral Daily News Tribune. To contact her with a story idea, email [email protected]