Three school board members in Richland, Washington are facing recall after voting to make masks optional in schools before the state’s mask mandate was lifted.
Four Washington school districts voted to give parents the choice to mask their children or not, The Center Square reports. The Colville, Kettle Falls, Kittitas, and Richland school districts released children from masks in February, but Gov. Jay Inslee (D) mandated masking in schools until March 21.
The Kettle Falls School District was the first in the state of Washington to make masks optional.
“I know that some will say that you are not the expert and you need to listen to the experts,” a Kettle Falls school board member told KREM news. “I disagree with this statement. I believe that each and every parent is the expert when it comes to their children.”
Some board members thought they should wait for Inslee to lift the mask mandate, as it seemed imminent; however, others said his timeline has changed and is not reliable.
“I wish I felt the same that I was confident that change was coming soon,” the board member told KREM, “I’ve heard that for two years.”
After state officials threatened to withhold school funds, all four districts reversed their decision in compliance with the governor’s order, according to The Center Square.
Richland Mandate Opponents Face Recall
Richland school board members were accused of violating state law—and multiple district and ethics policies—by voting to make masks optional.
The voters who petitioned for recall of three members of the Richland board allege the decision exceeded their power and damaged the school district’s reputation. Semi Bird and Audra Byrd, two of the board members facing recall, were elected in November 2021.
Audra Byrd campaigned on getting students back in the classroom without limitations and giving families choices.
As a school board candidate Byrd stated her disagreement with mask mandates, during an interview with KNDO.
“I do not believe that children should be forced to wear masks in schools,” said Byrd. “I believe masks shouldn’t be mandatory at this time when all people older than 12 years old can get the vaccination if they want to. And the CDC has shown that children under the age of 18 are at higher risk for flu complications than they are for coronavirus. Then there’s no need to mandate masks.”
Byrd also said she was against the teaching of critical race theory (CRT).
Children are suffering with the masks and parents are frustrated, Richland school board member Semi Bird told KONA Radio.
Bird, a former U.S. Marine and Army Special Forces Green Beret campaigned for the Richland school board as a “Proud Constitutional Christian Conservative.” His platform also included support of parental rights and elimination of CRT and other “ideological curriculum.”
“Schools are for education, not indoctrination,” states Bird’s campaign website. “The Richland School District and its Board Members have an obligation to support, collaborate with, and advocate for, students and families. Parents and students must be allowed a voice and encouraged to participate in determining appropriate policies and curriculum.”
A state Superior Court Judge will determine if the charges against the Richland school board members meet the legal standard for a recall vote.
Portland Recall Failed
There was another school board recall campaign in neighboring Oregon.
The Newberg School District, outside of Portland, erupted in controversy when newly elected board members adopted a ban on political symbols after observing leftist indoctrination in the schools, Heartland Daily News reported.
Despite an aggressive effort by the Newberg Education Association, a teachers union, that was partly financed by Hollywood celebrities, the recall of the two conservative board members failed, the Oregonian reported.
Florida Ditches Masks
In fall 2021, Heartland Daily News reported several states moved to ban masking in schools as children returned to the classrooms.
“Many parents don’t want their children to be masked all day at school, particularly when children are at such a low risk from the virus,” said the Heartland Daily News article.
By the time the Washington school district board members voted to remove mask mandates in February, many other states had already abandoned mask mandates or opted to leave the decision to parents, including Florida, reported Heartland Daily News.
“It’s parents’ choice in Florida,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in a public statement, according to Florida Politics. “And government can’t override the parents. And so we believe the parents are the ones that have the choice.”
Mask mandates are ineffective and getting people to comply requires political manipulation, says Vinay Prasad, a hematologist-oncologist and associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Because U.S. masking policies are largely forms of virtue-signaling and public health performance, it’s not surprising that they are often blatantly self-contradictory and absurd,” wrote Prasad, in Tablet.