UPDATED: Mask Protesters Disrupt Cape Henlopen Board of Education Meeting

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UPDATED 8/24/21 – Last week’s Cape School Board meeting ended abruptly when parents became upset over masks in schools. The meeting was adjourned before the financial business and committee reports were presented. Superintendent Robert Fulton told WGMD in an email that the remaining items will be handled during the next school board meeting on September 9th which is a workshop meeting. The next regular meeting is September 23rd – both will be held at HOB.

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Passion over masks in schools was on full display at a meeting of the Cape Henlopen School District Board of Education.

At its regular meeting Thursday, the board scheduled a period for public comment. The Cape Gazette reports members of the audience started to demand more time and shouted, and Board President Alison Myers ended the comment period.

Video shared to YouTube by Cape Gazette of Cape Henlopen Board of Education

Reportedly, one person who spoke in favor of a mask mandate – which is a state mandate, not from the district – was shouted down. Several in the crowd held signs.

The meeting was ended with items still unfinished on the agenda, just before the start of another school year.

Earlier this week, mask mandates drew audience participation during school board meetings in the Red Clay and Caesar Rodney School Districts. A meeting in the Brandywine School District was postponed due to members of the public refusing to wear masks.

Wednesday, leaders of the Delaware State Senate Democratic Caucus released a statement stating that the mask protests were deflecting boards of education from taking important actions with a new school year approaching.

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Democrats on the Senate Education Committee, including Chair Laura Sturgeon, Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman, Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, and Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend have issued the following statement regarding this week’s disruptive protests at the Brandywine, Caesar Rodney, and Red Clay Consolidated school board meetings: 

“Over the last week, the immature and irresponsible behavior that has become a hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic was on full display in school board meetings across our state, resulting in one meeting being halted, another delayed and a third interrupted by chants and an overall lack of decorum. 

Adults who claim to have the best interest of children at heart have repeatedly disrupted – or halted entirely – the functions of local school boards at a time when they are diligently preparing for a return to full, in-person instruction. 

During the height of the pandemic, many of these same parents protested remote learning, in which children virtually participated in school from home where no mask was needed. They were adamant then that students belong in classrooms with their teachers. Now that our school districts are preparing for a return to in-person instruction with straightforward public health precautions in place, masks have suddenly become the focus of their outrage. 

We agree that our students learn best in the classroom, and that’s why we support the prudent public health choices that will allow that to occur this fall. This pandemic is weighing heavily on all of us, but the reality is no amount of protest and disruption at school board meetings will end it any sooner. The more people refuse to do what is necessary to protect their neighbors and their communities, the longer it will take for us to emerge from this public health crisis. 

We expect disagreement and dissent over the guidelines put in place to protect our school personnel, their families, and their communities from COVID-19. We also expect those divergent viewpoints to be shared respectfully during the focused, structured public comment portion of local school board meetings. And we expect adults to work together to address individual cases where exceptions may be needed. 

But our schools and our children’s education should not be held hostage by a vocal minority who expect their frustrations to trump science, data, and our shared responsibility to one another.” 

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