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Schools should not be places to watch politics play out. Their purpose is to provide our children with a quality education in a safe environment. Our local school districts have decided that is no longer their goal. Instead, their goal is to push political agendas on masks. 

We are watching administrators spout vague anecdotes about the “hundreds” of parents they claim to have spoken to with concerns about their child’s mental health as it relates to having to wear masks. They state that there are studies coming out saying children are experiencing more anxiety and depression during this pandemic, and they claim that masks are to blame. Yet if you ask them to provide the data from these purported studies, they cannot provide anything concrete. Yet when our local boards are asked to look at the data about preventing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks indoors in public settings, they turn a blind eye and express skepticism. They claim to be following local data to develop policies regarding the health and safety of our children, but when confronted with rising case counts and low vaccination rates, they have no plans to change their policies which current local data shows is needed. These are not well thought-out and carefully planned decisions they are making. These are decisions based on misinformation, political motivation, and ultimately, cowardice. Our school boards and administrators are too afraid to make the right decision because that would upset the loudest voices who are either incapable of understanding or willfully refuse to recognize the truth in science. 

Administrators are not paid six figure salaries to please someone the local yokel who read an article on their aunt’s Facebook page; they are paid to ensure the institutions in which our children learn are maintained at the highest standards they can be. Our school districts are tucking their tails between their legs even as we see districts in other states fighting for the ability to protect the children in their halls with mandated indoor masking. Disappointing is an understatement to describe the cowardice we are seeing from our local boards. As I watched passionate parents and educated physicians address the Cornwall Lebanon School District board on Monday, August 16, I couldn’t help but feel a mix of gratitude and intense frustration. The gratitude was for all of those who took the time to put themselves out there and speak in favor of common-sense policies based on the guidance from the CDC, AAP, DOH, and PDE. The frustration boiled because I knew the only person they were going to listen to was Senator Chris Gebhard who spoke first that night supposedly as a “parent” but who the board addressed as “Senator.” But this decision “isn’t political.” In fact, this decision was so apolitical that the district’s sole medical advisor is none other than our very own elected County Coroner. The morbid irony of that decision certainly isn’t lost to those with enough critical thinking skills to make the connection. 

It’s incredibly suspect that not a single board member posed questions about the plan presented. With cases spiking and schools soon to open, the issue of masking students is currently the most intensely debated topic among school boards across the nation. Yet not a single question about the current plan was asked by any member of our CLSD board. That points to gross negligence, sheer apathy, or serves to incriminate them of discussing the plan outside of official sessions, a violation of the Sunshine Act.

Our children should not be pawns in your political games, Lebanon County School Boards. They should not be subjected to an unsafe learning environment because you lack the courage to make a decision based in fact at the risk of angering some misinformed parents who can’t even be bothered to show up to a meeting. Out of the thirteen parents who were there to speak at the most recent CLSD board meeting, only three spoke in favor of the laughable plan put forth by the district. Thankfully my second grader was able to confirm for me that ten is in fact larger than three and therefore represented the majority. But that night logic and reason once again fell by the wayside with only one dissenting vote for this sham of a health & safety plan, and I only had one thought…these people need to resign. There can be no confidence in this board’s ability to act in the best interest of our children’s health and safety after what we have recently witnessed from them. The board and the administrators have proven they hold no concern for the kids in their care, and rather are prioritizing the feelings and opinions of the misinformed. As such they are unqualified and undeserving of their positions. 

Kevin Keller is a parent in the Cornwall-Lebanon School District.

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