MONROE, CT — As the new school year draws near, some parents attending last week’s Board of Education meeting spoke out in opposition of the mask policy the district will follow to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
While a medical professional alluded to “countless studies performed by countless scientists” showing masks decrease the spread of the coronavirus, critics claimed there are no studies and that there is data showing masks pose a danger of carbon dioxide poisoning. Though that is disputed.
Among the parents opposed to the mask policy is Justin Orlando, a Republican running or the Board of Education. He could not attend the meeting on Aug. 16, so his brother, Rob, spoke in his place.
Justin Orlando said masks cause irreversible physical and psychological harm to children’s development. He encouraged parents who share his concerns to stand firm in their opposition to Governor Ned Lamont’s mask mandate.
“I plead with the board to do what is right,” Justin Orlando said in his statement. “You have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the health and well being of our youth. If this is not the case, then I’m asking for all Monroe parents who believe their children should be maskless in school to come together and send their kids to school as God intended, learning, breathing fresh air and engaging with their peers — all while enjoying the awesome freedom that America provides.”
Kristen Glick, a physician assistant in the Emergency Department at Bridgeport Hospital, who lives in Monroe and has provided assistance to the town’s vaccination program, defended the mask policy.
Glick said some people seem to believe their feelings outweigh what science has proven.
“However, much as the sun does not care if you believe it is hot and the sky does not care if you believe it is blue, COVID does not care about your political agenda,” she said. “It does not care about your inconvenience. It cares about infecting, reproducing and wreaking havoc — havoc, which I can tell you, you do not want to witness.”
Both sides argued that they were the ones following the science, while the other side followed emotions and opinions.
“I’m here today because I need to voice my concern as a Monroe parent,” Ginny Furey said. “We live in a world where fear mongering has taken over reality. Science is now objective and political, and logic and common sense have all but disappeared.”
“How did we get here?” she continued. “COVID has changed people’s perspectives all over the world. I want to believe that schools and boards have the children’s best interest at heart. Sadly, I don’t feel this way anymore. From information I’ve gathered over the last year-and-a-half, it is apparent that schools put funding over freedom — $1.8 million to be exact.”
Orlando also noted how the district could lose the federal funding if it does not follow the mask mandate. He asked parents how much money it was worth to them to expose their children to, what he said, were the dangers of masks.
Furey complained about contradictory information such as being told masks were not effective then that masks are effective, children learning in cohorts while sharing the bus with children outside that group, and learning in class wearing masks then eating lunch without masks among the same children.
“You and I both know that none of this makes any sense,” Furey said. “However, these protocols had to be put in place in order to receive the $1.8 million in federal funding.”
Furey and other parents who spoke against the mask mandate urged the Board of Education to write the governor and ask him to appeal the policy.
“All I’m asking is that I have the option to make the best decision for my children,” Furey said. “I feel my rights as a parent for something as simple as breathing freely has been taken away from me. Our children aren’t in climate controlled buildings, which makes it even more intolerable for this to continue.”
“Parental choice. That is what I want to talk about tonight,” Orlando said. “To the parents who believe masks work, I fully respect and support your right to mask your child. I simply ask to be given the same respect in regards to my parental choice, especially when you consider that if your child is wearing a mask, they are sufficiently protected, right?”
Gary Corigliano, another parent, noted that boxes for masks say it does not prevent airborne illness, including COVID. He also talked about the dangers of high carbon dioxide levels and the importance of oxygen for the brain.
“The real part of this clown show is you all think you have the authority to mandate masks to our children, and we have the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers and we also have our Bible,” Corigliano said.
Glick urged the Board of Education to follow the mask mandate.
“I implore you, if the governor leaves this decision at your feet, please block out the noise, block out the agendas, block out the opinions and look to the science,” she said. “It is the only tool that we have.”
Glick said the simple mitigation techniques have been proven in over 80 peer reviewed studies to decrease transmission of the virus. She said the data is “staggering and unequivocal” that wearing masks reduces the rate of transmission and hospitalizations.
Glick noted how people trust the science to heal them when they are ill, and asked the public to trust the science to help prevent them and their children from getting ill in the first place.
She asked what message the district would be sending children if educators “allow the opinions of a few to cloud the scientific proof we have available,” prioritizing the needs of a few over the safety of all.
“But children don’t get that sick, people will tell you,” Glick said, “to which I will respond, you’re right. You are correct. Many children will be seemingly well after convalescing from COVID-19, but our goal in this community should be that no child in our district should be a numerator in this equation.”
She said it is the Board of Education’s job and duty to look after the safety and well being of students and staff.
“Both sides of this argument want our children off the computer and in the classroom,” Glick said, “and it is vital to their development to do so.”