August 23, 2021

Anne Lutz Fernandez: School Covid mask rules have sparked parent-teacher violence. We can’t ignore it.

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Anne Lutz Fernandez is a high school English teacher. In this piece from NBC Think, she looks at the rising tide of disrespect aimed at teachers, culminating in a new wave of physical and verbal attacks.

Protestors burning masksripping masks off educators’ faces and hurling obscenities have disrupted and derailed education board meetings nationwide this summer as local officials have sought to allow in-person learning despite a new wave of Covid-19 cases powered by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

These protests are taking place at town halls and school parking lots, but they have their genesis elsewhere. They’ve been sparked and fanned by right-wing media personalities with national platforms and by politicians and social media agitators who’ve taken to calling school mask mandates “child abuse” — and the teachers who support them child abusers. Protests have reached a fever pitch as the topic dominates school board agendas alongside and often intermingled with issues like the manufactured panic over critical race theory.

At a school board meeting in Connecticut where residents expressed their views about district business, one father moved smoothly from raging about critical race theory to raging about masks, declaring that he was pulling his children from the schools. He then turned away from the democratically elected board to speak directly to a jeering, cheering subset of parents assembled. He may have been a champion to these parents, but in reality he is in the minority, albeit a minority who refuse consensus.

Frighteningly, the anger seems to be escalating. In the past week, authorities said, a mother in Texas tore a teacher’s mask from her face and a father in California verbally assaulted a principal and physically attacked a teacher who intervened, sending him to the hospital.

Through the pandemic, others in public-facing jobs asked to enforce mask mandates, like retail employees, have been subjected to hectoring and threats. And educators have long dealt with violence from students and parents. So recent attacks on educators may not seem any different from these sadly familiar acts, but they are — and we should be alarmed by them.

Read the rest of the piece here.

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