Despite changing student masking policy, Hamilton school board still hears criticism

Despite Hamilton Schools officials deciding this week to switch away from its previous mandatory masking policy, school board members Thursday evening continued to hear stinging criticisms. Speakers primarily focused on the board's recent interactions with the public during meetings where masks were addressed. School resident Dan Acton (pictured) was among those complaining the city schools should never have gone to mandatory masking for students. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)
Caption
Despite Hamilton Schools officials deciding this week to switch away from its previous mandatory masking policy, school board members Thursday evening continued to hear stinging criticisms. Speakers primarily focused on the board's recent interactions with the public during meetings where masks were addressed. School resident Dan Acton (pictured) was among those complaining the city schools should never have gone to mandatory masking for students. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

One parent: ‘We all look forward to the first opportunity to vote out every last one of you.’

Hamilton Schools’ mandatory mask policy has ended but criticism of the school board’s recent interactions regarding public complaints about the policy did not during Thursday evening’s board meeting.

That despite Hamilton Board of Education President Laurin Sprague starting the meeting by disavowing a recent National School Board Association (NSBA) letter that characterized school parents who complained to local school boards about masking and other issues as “domestic terrorists.”

Earlier this week Hamilton Schools Superintendent Mike Holbrook announced the 10,000-student district, which had previously had a mandatory student mask policy, would now switch to a “highly recommended” policy for facial coverings.

ExploreHamilton City Schools change quarantine and mask rules, following state’s lead

But leading off the board’s public meeting, which was quickly scheduled, said Sprague, so the board could rapidly approve the new more lenient mask policy, was instead a discussion of the NSBA’s now widely decried letter.

Sprague and all other school board members voted to approve a resolution in support of the Ohio School Boards Association’s (OSBA) recent resignation as a member of the NSBA in protest of the national group’s actions toward school parents.

ExploreOhio School Boards Association leaves national agency over dispute

“This (NSBA) letter that went to President Biden was of concern to us,” Sprague told the nearly two dozen audience members at the board meeting at the district’s central office.

Board member Margaret Baker said “I did not agree with that (NSBA) letter being sent. Parents have a right to speak with us.”

Fellow member David Davidson said the NSBA letter left him “outraged.”

“It has a chilling effect on parents coming and addressing school boards about concerns they have about their child’s education,” said Davidson.

And while the public comment portions of recent meetings have been occasionally raucous — and saw the board ordering of audience members out of the meeting — this board event featured only a majority of the speakers leveling stinging criticisms at members.

Their complaints included student masking as well as the alleged teaching of critical race theory and concerns about the possibility in some school parents’ minds of future, mandatory coronavirus vaccinations at schools.

Others criticized the board for its handling of recent board audiences, which in September saw Hamilton Police officers remove a banner critical of the board and order an audience member to leave the building.

ExploreLocal school boards see more verbal clashes over masks, other issues at meetings

School parent Jennifer Mason told the board “it seems to be under the impression it has the ability to supersede the United States Constitution.”

“You all choose your positions on this board. Therefore, you have to listen to us whether you like what we have to say or not,” said Mason. “We all greatly look forward to the first opportunity to vote out every last one of you.”

Hamilton resident Dan Acton welcomed the board’s change in masking policy, but he added “the policy should have never been there in the first place.”

Sprague ended the comment period — which he extended by a few minutes to allow more comments —and then the board meeting by stating: “I appreciate everybody who spoke tonight.”

About the Author

ajc.com