Speakers at board meeting urge Dist. 54 to defy mask mandate
Despite a mandate from the governor Wednesday for all Illinois students to wear masks in school, all 24 speakers at the Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 meeting a few hours later demanded children be given a choice anyway.
But board members recognized their only legal liability to be in disobeying the directive, and they unanimously voted for District 54 to follow it.
When the district's attorney reported that Gov. J.B. Pritzker's mandate removed the board's discretion, a chorus of "No!" came from the audience in the meeting room.
Parent Mariola Marcinkiewicz of Elk Grove Village told District 54 officials that if they don't mention the existence of a religious exemption when they tell people to wear masks or get vaccinated, they are committing fraud.
"Masks don't work," she said. "They only segregate people."
Her daughter, sixth-grader Kaya Kurnat, said she found learning difficult under last year's conditions and intended not to follow any mask-wearing requirement during the coming year.
"How is COVID worse than any other virus?" she said.
Parent Susan Goldwater thanked the board for at least providing an opportunity for members of the public to express themselves after Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 canceled its meeting on the same topic Thursday evening in response to the governor's mandate.
"My frustration is not with this board but with our government leadership," Goldwater said. "I'm looking for this board to be brave and say 'no' to Gov. Pritzker."
But parent Timothy McFarlan turned to the audience members during his time at the microphone to ask them to recall the board, adding that he believed home-schooled kids in the community were doing much better.
For much of the early part of the meeting, McFarlan had sat in the front row and waved signs reading "No Masks" and "Whose Kids? Our Kids!". He was ultimately was ejected from the meeting for making uncivil comments and left without resistance.
District 54 board President Mary Kay Prusnick reported that 22 comments had been sent to the district electronically before the meeting, but those were not read into the record and all but four had been made over a couple of weeks before Wednesday.
A review of the comments afterward identified that 17 were in favor of requiring masks, three were opposed, and two were specifically to request that a remote learning option remain available.
The special meeting had been scheduled for the board to discuss all recent mask-wearing guidance from the state and federal governments before the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 16, but ended up occurring on the same day as Pritzker's unequivocal mandate.