There was screaming and yelling at the St. Charles Parish School Board meeting Thursday night when parents on both sides of the masking debate showed up ready to defend their side of the argument.
Tensions have been high recently on the matter in Facebook groups – including “UNmask our kids! St. Charles Parish” and “Support the St. Charles Parish School Board” – where two groups of parents have staunch, but opposing, views on whether or not St. Charles Parish Public Schools students should be required to wear face masks.
Although not on the board’s meeting agenda, the mask discussion was added to the night’s list of conversations after the School Board was contacted by numerous parents requesting the opportunity to speak.
Anne Moyer, who spoke for the side of people who want masks required, is the mother of two students at Hahnville High School. She said while she has always believed masks should be required, she made the decision to be more vocal about her opinion when she saw how many people were challenging the state’s mask mandate and trying to sway local school leaders to make them optional.
“I can’t let that go unanswered,” Moyer said. “I have faith in our school board, but I’ve been surprised and somewhat appalled in this parish about the number of people who won’t get a vaccine … I won’t take anything granted. Everyone can be swayed by too many people, and sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I hope that the majority of parents feel the way I do. This is not about politics … this is about health.”
Moyer said a handful of pro-mask parents showed up to the meeting.
“We knew what to expect going in … that this was not an agenda topic and that only one of us would be allowed to speak,” she said, adding there were approximately 30 people on the anti-mask side who showed up. “The School Board was great, but the other side put the entire meeting in chaos. They all wanted to talk. It was just chaos.”
Moyer’s speech cited studies that proved the efficacy of masks and gave information about other school districts who had to suspend school for weeks after masks were not mandated and COVID-19 outbreaks occurred.
“There was some heckling, but I plowed through,” Moyer said.
Marla Faust, a Destrehan resident with three children, attended two meetings yesterday: the BESE meeting in Baton Rouge, as well as the St. Charles Parish School Board meeting. Her steadfast belief that masks should be optional in school led her to go to both gatherings.
“I know multiple people who have taken their kids out of the public school system because of these mandates,” she said. “We as a parents have a right as to what goes on our kids’ faces. To me that is discrimination – where’s the equality for the unmasked children? I was told that these are your options … either send them in a mask or you take your kids out of public school. They’re just trying to get rid of us.”
Faust said while she hasn’t withdrawn her children from St. Charles Parish Public Schools just yet, she is considering it. She added that after each speaker was given the opportunity to present their side of the argument, the School Board meeting officially began.
“They just went about their business,” she said. “They knew that parents were coming and in my opinion it kind of feels like they were throwing us some scraps to keep us quiet … like, ‘That’s all we’re going to give you and you should be satisfied with that.’”
Faust said she and others who believe masking should be a choice are organizing and planning out different routes to have their message be heard and hopefully ultimately see a change in policy.
“I’m talking to some state representatives and some other higher up people I won’t name,” she said. “We want to hold the system liable for violating our Constitutional and state rights.”
A recording of each parish School Board meeting is uploaded to the school system’s site the day after the meeting. Notably absent in today’s upload was the mask debate.
Stevie Crovetto, director of public information for the school system, said because the meeting had not officially begun and the comments were not part of the public meeting they were excluded.