Angry parents voice displeasure about in-school mask requirements at Clark BOE meeting

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CLARK, NJ — During an explosive Clark Board of Education meeting on Monday, Aug. 9, parents showed up in droves to combat the resolution requiring children to wear masks for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Board of Education member Steven Donkersloot told those assembled that the Board of Education had passed a resolution urging Gov. Phil Murphy to adopt a masking-optional approach for the upcoming school year, through which families would be given a choice. The governor, however, had done the opposite, issuing an executive order on Friday, Aug. 6, mandating masks in New Jersey public schools for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

“The board believes that Gov. Murphy needs to reconsider this decision and allow school district by school district and township by township, in conjunction with their students’ parents and guardians, to make the decision that works best for the individual school communities,” said Donkersloot on Monday, Aug. 9. “The Clark BOE urges Gov. Murphy to give serious reconsideration to this recent executive order in favor of a masking-optional approach instead. The board secretary sent a certified copy of this resolution to Gov. Murphy, state Senate President Steven Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.”

Clark Superintendent Edward Grande agreed that an optional approach to masking would be preferred but that there was no choice but to comply with the governor’s decision.

“Obviously, judging by the crowd this evening, I can only imagine that a good number of you want to speak about masks during the public comment section,” Grande said on Monday, Aug. 9. “We all agree regarding having an optional approach to which families and parents are given a choice to do what they deem is appropriate for their children. Unfortunately, regarding the legality, Gov. Murphy passed this mandate through an executive order, and that executive order ability allows him, in essence, to circumvent the legislative body, but, at the same time, the end result carries the same weight as law, and we need to adhere to it as if it was law, because it is law.

“We’ve been scrimmaging with the attorney what our options are,” he continued. “Unfortunately, if we were to not abide by this law, we’re looking at losing state aid, professional licenses and even board members’ oaths of office. Just please know the situation that we’re dealing with. We are in agreement with choice. We’re passing another resolution this evening, and we’ll be sending that to the governor’s office, to show our continued displeasure with this situation. But, at the same time, we really have to abide by the law.”

Angry with the superintendent’s message, many enraged parents, including Clark resident Mike Sommers, said the mask requirement had ulterior motives.

“Recent history has shown us that masks are used, moreover, as a coercion tool,” Sommers said on Monday, Aug. 9. “Obviously, the goal here is to get everyone to take these experimental injections to get us to our new normal. If you are afraid of losing funding from (Murphy), I would ask you, at what cost?”

Sommers brought a guest to the meeting who he said had received the Moderna vaccine. The two appeared to demonstrate that a neodymium magnet was able to stick to the man’s arm, in the spot of the vaccine injection, despite the fact that the CDC says that “All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals.” This caused a frenzy among the crowd.

“Why is a magnet sticking to this gentleman’s arm?” Sommers said. “About half of the people that I work with, half of my family members, half of anyone else who I’ve done that same test to, it sticks to. What is in the vaccine that is causing that to happen? I have spent five days a week for the last nine months researching these vaccines, their ingredients, material safety data sheets, independent laboratory analysis and their overall purpose…. I am pulling my kids from your public school, and I think, if we all do that, it’ll definitely have an effect on your funding.”

During her testimony, Clark resident Diana Gonzales wanted to know where lines were going to be drawn and brought up the clinical studies that proved masks aren’t effective in preventing respiratory disease.

“I’m really angry, but I don’t want to yell at you guys, because you didn’t create this situation. But I think you play an important role,” Gonzales said on Monday, Aug. 9. “I’ve been corresponding with Mr. Grande, and I personally believe that it’s better to work in partnership, but I think we’ve reached a point where we need to stop saying it’s the law and our hands are tied. At what point can you just not take orders? Today, it’s the masks. Clearly, the agenda is trading the masks for the vaccines. We’re no longer in a state of emergency, so we need civil disobedience at all levels. At what point do you say this is not acceptable and this is not OK? You’re complacent if you participate.”

Another Clark resident, Stephen Herd, also disagreed with the mask requirement for children.

“Children should not be required to wear masks. As a parent, I have two young children, and, personally, I have seen the negative impacts of masks in my children,” Herd said. “I believe they affect them emotionally and also socially. The biggest thing I see is, it affects their breathing. If these kids can’t breathe, how are they going to learn and be educated when they can’t breathe? They can’t see people smiling, and it has a huge emotional impact on these kids. Children learn from nonverbal communication. If they don’t see smiling, it affects them a lot. Parents don’t wash their masks, so they build up a lot of bacteria.

“As a result, children’s suicide rates across the world, in the U.S. and in New Jersey are on the rise. Murphy says follow the science. The science shows that surgical and cloth masks have a zero-percent impact in spreading the virus, and he makes that a law. Children are not superspreaders. Let the parents decide.”

Easing tensions within the room was Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, who tried to unite the people in attendance but did not agree with Murphy’s decision and explained to parents that this was the reality they had to live by. He urged everyone to rally against Murphy’s mandate respectfully.

“We never got an email, phone call, nothing saying that we’re in receipt of your resolution supporting mask choice,” Bonaccorso said on Monday, Aug. 9. “We have a governor who can’t make decisions without watching the polls. People asked here today, ‘What do you do, BOE?’ I’ll tell you what I recommend them doing, and it’s exactly what I’m going to do — it’s called follow the law. Do I think this is political? Absolutely.

“We cannot ask elected officials to break the law. An executive order is a law. How do you push back? Through public meetings and voicing your opinions. But don’t make (the BOE) the enemy,” he continued. “They’re with you, I’m with you, our council is with you. I believe my son, who goes to the high school, should have an option, like your children. Gov. Murphy does not want you to have an option.

“But how do you push back? You have to get to the state legislators, you have to get to the governor’s office, you have to call down there many times a day, you have to have civil disobedience, protests in a professional manner — these are the things that we have to do.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools, updated Wednesday, Aug. 4, “Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority. Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning, as well as extracurricular activities and sports. Due to the circulating and highly contagious delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students — age 2 and older — staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk.… Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies … to protect students, teachers, staff, visitors and other members of their households and support in-person learning.”