On Thursday, Aug. 12, the East Islip Board of Education held a meeting in the administrative building at 9 a.m. Normally, meetings are held in the cafeteria in the evenings.
Around a dozen parents attended the meeting, with more than half signing up to speak during the public comments portion. The main topic addressed was that of universal, or mandated, mask-wearing for the fall 2021 school year.
Impassioned and with a couple of speakers in full-blown tears, the parents did not hold back emotion as they spoke against mandating masks for their children.
Amanda Ascher, a mother of three, said, “We are left here with anxiety and fear that our children cannot breathe; they have a right to breathe oxygen. There is so much bacteria and fungus on these masks. Wearing the mask to fight a virus is basically like using a chain-link fence to stop mosquitoes.”
Breathless, Ascher went on to discuss her concern over her children’s cortisol and anxiety levels. At the end of her commentary, Ascher called upon the school district to band together with other Long Island school districts as a “united front” to make masks optional in the event of a state mandate for universal masking.
Another parent with a kindergartner said, “Extreme measures have alienated our children, causing depression, anxiety and fear.”
She called mask mandates an “abuse of power” and told a story of her son at kindergarten orientation shrinking into himself when he was characteristically exuberant after putting on a mask and said, “I can’t breathe.”
Nicole Scully, who has a 7-year-old, said, “This is my child’s third year of non-normal school.”
Scully challenged that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health had “no scientific proof that masking our children works,” and she had inquired with them directly for such materials and was told “they will say ‘Sorry, we have nothing yet.’ ”
One audience member asked the board members if they personally wanted to require students to wear masks and nearly all verbalized that they did not want students to have to wear masks.
President of the board of education, Christian Zachry, confirmed that the district sent a letter to the governor asking to make masks optional for East Islip School District and stressed that had they not followed the mandate, “they would have shut us down the next day.”
This prompted the audience to further egg on, “Do you just comply or do you support us?”
Stephanie Luffner, who has three kids, expressed her appreciation for the board’s request to make masks optional in the 2020-2021 school year, but went on to describe her children flourishing in playdates and visits to the park without a mask.
A number of speakers were so overwhelmed with emotion, they struggled to finish their prepared statements or went over the allotted three minutes, but board members were cordial and supportive to let everyone complete their comments outside of the three-minute rule.
A few speakers voiced concern about possible mandatory vaccinations of students once the vaccine was made available for children under 12, citing their distrust of vaccine manufacturers and the perceived legal protections afforded to them.
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