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Bedford County School Board meeting boils over

A heated meeting lasted almost five hours Thursday night
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 1:10 AM EDT
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BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - The Bedford County Public School Board gathered Thursday, met by dozens of parents who still want a say in whether their children must wear masks to school.

This meeting happened just hours after the latest public health order mandating masks for all students K through 12 was announced.

Parents don’t believe the fight is over yet, saying they will send in forms with their children, attempting to exempt them from wearing masks for medical and/or religious reasons.

Before the public comment portion of the meeting began, parents met outside for a rally, questioning what was constitutional for the school board and the commonwealth

“I have filed the letter to have them medically exempt from wearing a mask because I am not going to let my kids suffocate all day,” said Betsy Ferguson.

When the board came out of closed session, they were met with parents on both sides of the argument surrounding masks in schools

“This is a public health emergency; I think many people who oppose the public health laws here don’t really understand how the masks work,” said one father.

Not everyone saved their opinions for the podium, as a few in the crowd mocked and heckled other parents while they were sharing their thoughts.

This resulted in some parents being asked to leave before public comments were limited to only allowing one speaker in the room at a time, without an audience of their peers.

“Tonight we had members of the public that were not respecting the speakers. They were interjecting, the board cannot hear, speakers were struggling to stay on base and we just wanted to make it a supportive environment for our guests to be in,” said school board Chairman Jason Johnson.

“The government cannot kick all of our kids out of school for not wearing masks, and they will certainly not get rid of all these parents who are ticked off, because someone is trying to do our job,” said another mother at the podium.

Johnson was singled out at the meeting by his constituents for allegedly not contacting all members of the school board before publishing a revised order from the superintendent, which mandated masks for students and staff for the upcoming school year, the Sunday before the start of classes.

Johnson says this was done to avoid legal action from the commonwealth, given the more recent CDC recommendations regarding masks in indoor public spaces.

The school board did hold another vote reinforcing the superintendent’s plan for the school, which three board members opposed, wanting to stick to their original vote to leave the masking decision up to the parents.

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