The Farmington School Board voted to extend the emergency mask mandate during a contentious meeting Tuesday evening at Truman Auditorium.
Aside from heckling from the audience at various times, three speakers were on the agenda in opposition to the mask mandate. Each speaker was given five minutes to explain their issues.
Kim Brawley was the first guest to speak. “I am a wife, mother to seven children and grandmother to six. I was raised in Farmington and attended the schools here. Thank you for the opportunity to address the issues of mask mandates that you have decreed over the children in our school system.”
Brawley quoted several of the country’s founding fathers regarding government and freedom. She then went on to note actions taken by Missouri’s Attorney General.
“Eric Schmitt, Missouri’s attorney general has filed a class-action lawsuit against school districts forcing a mask mandate on schoolchildren and teachers. The lawsuit, which is a reverse class-action, names Columbia Public Schools, the Board of Education for the school district of Columbia, and their board members and the superintendent for Columbia Public Schools as defendants.”
Brawley quoted Schmitt and explained the lawsuit in detail and how the final result could directly affect the district. She then spoke about freedom of whether or not to wear a mask.
“The question today is not are masks a protection against COVID-19," she said. “Whether one is for or against wearing a mask is a personal decision for themselves and especially for their children. The question today is have we chosen to trade liberty for protection?”
The second speaker against the mask mandate was Derek Gollaher.
“Let me start by saying how blessed we are to live in a free country,” he said. “But the word free seems less and less accurate in recent times. I’m not here today to tell parents to mask or unmask their children. I’m here to say it should be up to the parents if they want to mask their children.”
Gollaher spoke about the right to speak and how some people feel hesitant to speak.
“…A free country to stand up for what you believe in and not be silenced or shamed,” he said. “There are a lot of parents afraid to raise their voice in fear of being frowned upon. But I promise you, a large majority of our community believes in freedom.
"A large portion of parents that have children in our schools believe our rights and freedoms are being taken away. I’ve been flooded with messages from parents thanking me for being a voice that they feel they cannot have right now. If it’s their work, family or friends, some are afraid to stand up, but that does not mean we all are. We have had enough with government overreach, the mask requirement you have implemented on Sept. 9, is not a city, county or state mandate. This is not a law, this is the powerful against the powerless, big against the small.”
Gollaher then spoke about several instances he has witnessed in the district regarding the use of masks.
“There is a video from a downtown event in Farmington this past Saturday,” he said. “It shows several people from your administration with their arms around each other laughing and taking pictures with each other with no masks on. Does this virus only prey on the children in the schools? Rules for thee but not for me.
“I went to the board of education building this past Friday, people walking around without masks on. I see Farmington School’s Facebook page post pictures with all the students wearing masks, but the teacher setting right next to them without a mask on.”
The final speaker, Rick Pyatt said he was speaking on behalf of his family and himself, all alumni of the Farmington School District.
“We hold much pride and respect for this great school district which always has and continues to play a role in our lives as members of this community,” he said. “The reason I am speaking this evening is about the freedom of choice when it relates to a parent and their child’s health and welfare within the school system. We feel that our freedom of choice has become overreached by the recent requirements in the school system.
“We have realized the effects that it is having on our children from last year’s requirements. They are uncomfortable, they are totally unnecessary. This requirement causes stress and anxiety and division amongst the students. I cannot speak for any other parents or students of this school district.”
Pyatt still has great regard for the Farmington School District.
“I believe it is still the greatest place in America to raise your kids and live the American dream, as my family has. It is not my purpose here today to stir the pot. I don’t involve myself in the political spectrum. I am simply here to voice the concerns of my family in the hopes that they will be recognized and considered when making critical decisions that pertain to the students and their health of this great district.”
After the speakers finished, there was an outburst from the audience with one woman being asked to leave the meeting.
After finishing other business, the meeting ended with many in the audience loudly demanding that the board rescind the policy.
Later in the evening, Superintendent Matt Ruble released a statement on the extension of the mandate and the numbers of COVID cases in the district to date.
“Our Mission as a District will continue to be providing an excellent education for our students,” he said. “As was stated in our letter two weeks ago we moved to the requirement because it allows students to stay on campus and learn with their fellow students instead of being forced to quarantine.
"I'm happy to report that both our students testing positive, as well as our quarantine numbers are down significantly from two weeks ago partially due to the requirement but also due to increased social distancing within classrooms.
“We appreciate the support we have received from the community and will continue to monitor district numbers and work with our county health department in the weeks and months ahead.”
Below are the numbers released by the school district.
Total School Quarantines since Beginning of Year: 442
Total Home Quarantines since the Beginning of the Year: 410
Total Quarantines: 852
Total Positive Students: 94
Total Positives from School Close Contacts: 17
Total Quarantines Now: 95 Students
Comparison of Now vs Mask Requirement:
Quarantines at School Now — 15 vs 205 then
Quarantines at Home Now — 80 vs 133 then
Positives Now — 15 vs 61 then
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at email@example.com