A county in Maryland announced that it will hold all of its school board meetings virtually, not because of a risk of spreading COVID-19, but because its employees are being assaulted by protestors.
The Harford County Public School system briefly reintroduced in-person school board meetings, but the fun’s over, because too many adults threw a fit at the idea that their children should wear masks in school to help protect them from catching COVID-19.
In a video, Harford County Public Schools board president Rachel Gauthier and vice president Carol Mueller explained that their school board meetings would move to virtual video sessions—not because of fears of spreading COVID-19, but because people have been too belligerent to continue meeting in person.
On August 16, Harford County Public Schools started requiring all students and personnel to wear masks on buses and in school buildings. During a school board meeting on that same day, protestors gathered against the mandate, calling it “child abuse.” The meeting was cut short because of unruly conduct.
“We deeply regret to share that a few community members intentionally disrupted the opportunity to speak to us at our business meeting on August 16th,” Gauthier said in the video. “Deliberate tactics were used to disrupt the meeting like speaking out of turn shouting profanities banging on windows, refusing to comply with building mandates, and most accordingly physically assaulting Harford county public schools employees,” she said. “This is unacceptable to the members of the board and we anticipate that our community at large joins us in the sentiment that this behavior will not be tolerated.”
In a Sept. 7 board meeting—presumably the last in-person meeting they’ll have—several people stood at the microphone to denounce mask mandates (which are proven to slow the spread of COVID-19), vaccines in general (which work), and demanded that people repent before God (this one is still up for debate).
Across the country, school officials and community members have had to endure all kinds of unhinged behavior at school board meetings, from people who oppose mandates that protect children from COVID-19 (children are more vulnerable to the Delta variant).
Being unhinged at a school board meeting gives you a decent shot at going viral these days: it’s the venue of choice for spouting whatever nonsense you want, as YouTube considers these meetings in the public interest and won’t take them down for misinformation or harassment. “While we have clear policies to remove harmful COVID-19 misinformation, we also recognize the importance of organizations like school boards using YouTube to share recordings of open public forums, even when comments at those forums may violate our policies,” a spokesperson for YouTube told Motherboard after a video of a man spreading misinformation about vaccines at a school board meeting went viral.
By cutting abusive community members people off at the source, the Harford County school board stops people from spreading COVID-19, and their inanity, any farther than their own Zoom window.
“No one should have to fear being assaulted at their workplace,” Gauthier said. “As a board we will not ask HCSP staff to continue to put their physical safety at risk.”