FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Protesters upset by the revival of a mask mandate for elementary school students in Williamson County, Tennessee were caught on camera cursing, heckling and threatening supporters of the mandate after Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
The school board voted in favor of requiring elementary school students to wear masks between Aug. 12 and Sept. 22. Children under the age of 12 are not currently eligible for any FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends facial coverings for all teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status, but the Williamson County school board didn’t go as far, even though the CDC has indicated that masking in schools will play a vital role in stopping the spread of the more infectious delta variant.
Masks are strongly recommended for Williamson County’s middle and high school students, but not required. Teachers may remove their face coverings if they are spaced at least 6 feet from another person.
Parents on both sides of the issue attended the school board meeting, making their case before the board. Livestream footage shows anti-mask attendees jeering and shouting while mask supporters had the floor.
Nancy Garett, chair of the board, asked security to remove those who were frequently interrupting speakers.
Once the meeting ended, mask supporters were greeted outside the building by anti-maskers chanting "we’ll not comply" and "no more masks." One demonstrator shouted there was a "place in hell" for those in favor of masks.
"There is a bad place in hell and everybody’s taking notes, buddy," the man shouted as he followed another man to his car. "We know who you are! You will never be allowed in public again!"
Video shows anti-mask protesters heckling a supporter of a Tennessee school board’s new temporary mask mandate. (Credit: Matt Masters/Williamson Home Page via Storyful)
Some anti-mask demonstrators pleaded with their allies to remain calm and not escalate tensions. Deputies also pleaded with the crowd to remain peaceful.
"We are here for everybody’s safety. We are here for y’all just as much as we are here for everybody else," a sergeant said. "We are here, we are away from our families, some of us are on a 17, almost an 18-hour day, and that’s me."
Carol Birdsong, a spokesperson for the school board, issued the following statement:
"Our parents are passionate about their children’s education, and that’s one of the reasons for our district’s success over the years. With that said, there’s no excuse for incivility. We serve more than 40,000 students and employ more than 5,000 staff members. Our families and staff represent a wide variety of thoughts and beliefs, and it is important in our district that all families and staff have the opportunity to be represented and respected. We will continue to work toward making sure all voices are heard and that all families, staff and community members feel safe sharing their opinions."
This story was reported from Atlanta.