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Carroll County parents continue to split on masks in school; board of ed still supports mask-optional policy

Two groups of parents were represented at the Carroll County Board of Education meeting Wednesday night. One group was wearing green and the other was wearing white with shirts that said “equality not equity.”

Conversations surrounding mask-wearing and education that acknowledges race have polarized parents in Carroll. And it was visible Wednesday before and during the Board of Education meeting. Those in green were pro-mask-wearing and pro-diversity, equity and inclusion in education. Those wearing white were in support of the public school’s current mask-optional policy and against critical race theory, a topic not taught at CCPS but believed by this group to be disguised as diversity, equity and inclusion.

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After the student member challenged the board to enhance its mitigation efforts, it did not conduct a vote to make any changes.

Two groups of parents were represented at Carroll’s board of education meeting Wednesday. The parents wearing green were pro-mask and supported diversity, education and inclusion education. The parents wearing white shirts that said “Equality not equity" supported the current optional mask-wearing policy and do not support critical race theory.
Two groups of parents were represented at Carroll’s board of education meeting Wednesday. The parents wearing green were pro-mask and supported diversity, education and inclusion education. The parents wearing white shirts that said “Equality not equity" supported the current optional mask-wearing policy and do not support critical race theory. (Kristen Griffith)

Ed Singer, county health officer, gave an update during the meeting on COVID numbers. He said later that instead of dwelling on what he said in the past regarding mask recommendations, he would recommend that the board request that the state link the mask mandate to current COVID numbers — if the rates drop, then the board could consider lifting the mandate.

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Said Devanshi Mistry, the board’s student representative: “I really think we should be taking every mitigation strategies that we can.”

She added that the quarantining procedures would cause students to miss critical classes and unfairly result in students students who are wearing masks having to miss school as well.

Close contacts for a student with COVID who are vaccinated and asymptomatic may attend school but must wear a mask for three days before producing a negative COVID test. Students who are unvaccinated but asymptomatic can take a COVID test after five days. If negative they can return to school on the eighth day, but have to wear a mask until day 14. Students who do not take a test have to quarantine for 10 days. When they return, they must wear a mask until day 14.

If everyone wears a mask, Singer said, the distance for people who are considered close contacts can be cut down from 6 feet to 3.

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Mistry challenged the board to take action on mitigation efforts. But after discussion about quarantining, learning from home and board member Ken Kiler’s contention claim that other districts without a mask mandate had very few quarantines, the board took no action.

Kiler said later that he thinks Carroll should have a chance to prove it can do the same. And Mistry, who does not have voting rights, said she was disappointed the board did not act more proactively.

Parents wearing green showed up as early as 4 p.m. and stood around the entrance of the central office building an hour before the start of the meeting. One of the parents in the group was Niki Guinan of Manchester. She said it seems the board members are not listening to the parents who support mask-wearing and diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, which is why they showed up Wednesday.

Guinan added that she did not send her kids to school Wednesday, the first day of school. “And they will not be going until masks are mandatory,” she said. Guinan said she enrolled them in a home-schooling program for a week.

Carroll County Public Schools is the only district in the Baltimore region that started the school year without a mask mandate. A General Assembly committee will vote Tuesday whether to approve a Maryland Board of Education decision to mandate masks.

Maureen Aversa of Manchester said she also didn’t want her kids to attend school Wednesday. But she cannot teach her child, who attends the Carroll County Career Technology Center, engineering at home.

When it comes to supporting DEI, Amy Parker of Eldersburg said she was “alarmed” by comments made by parents who wore shirts that said “equality not equity” as well as the recent vote by the board to keep classrooms politically neutral despite current policy in place that states that employees cannot engage in political activity while on the job.

She later read a letter during public comment that called the board to implement four action items: correcting misinformation made by parents during meetings and providing educational resources to parents about why DEI is important; prioritizing hiring more staff in the equity office; producing policy that allows teachers to discuss “controversial issues” that include “omitted historical events especially those of under represented people”; and declaring itself pro-diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as including an action plan for racial incidents.

Tim Layton wears a shirt that says "Children aren't replaceable, but elected officials are," while his wife, Jodi, wears one that says "My mask protects you, your mask protects me." They were wearing green to support mandatory mask-wearing in Carroll County Public Schools.
Tim Layton wears a shirt that says "Children aren't replaceable, but elected officials are," while his wife, Jodi, wears one that says "My mask protects you, your mask protects me." They were wearing green to support mandatory mask-wearing in Carroll County Public Schools. (Kristen Griffith)

As parents in green spoke during public comment, other green shirt wearers stood up and clapped afterward. Those in the white “equality not equity” shirts did the same after parents in white spoke. Some of the comments from those wearing the white shirts, or from those who received applause from parents in those shirts, included calling critical race theory “racist,” accusing teachers of sneaking the theory into curriculum and saying equity and diversity cannot coexist.

Regarding masks, those in the white shirts thanked the board for not following the mandate, spoke about the challenges their kids have with masks, and said masks would not prevent the spread of COVID.

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