As COVID cases surge statewide, the Wake County school board is stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

If board members continue the mask mandate or decide to require vaccines, they’ll be branded as oppressors, overreaching their authority and responsibility to educate children. If they eliminate the mask mandate or fail to act to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, they’ll be denounced as failures and blamed for every case of illness or death in schools. 

That dilemma came into glaring relief Tuesday night when dozens of parents lined up to launch criticisms at the board members for their past (and future) decisions.

Jasmine Raeford, a kindergarten teacher, defended her decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine during public comments.

“What I choose to do with my body is under my control,” Raeford said. “If there is something that comes down the line to require teachers to get a vaccine, you may lose more than you gain.”

John Scarborough, the parent of an elementary school student, was the next to approach the podium. 

“I strongly feel that the board has not and is not doing enough to protect my child,” he said, adding that the board should begin testing unvaccinated employees on a weekly basis.  

The school board has (so far) continued to require students in grades K-12 to wear face masks. In compliance with a new state law requiring monthly votes on masking policies, the board members voted 8-1 Tuesday to uphold its universal masking requirement. They rejected a proposal, however, requiring that face masks be worn during outdoor recess. 

Still, stricter protective measures also remain on the table, such as requiring COVID-19 vaccines and testing. Dr. Danny Benjamin, co-director of the ABC Science Collaborative—who at times was called a quack and crony by public commenters—said requiring vaccinations will reduce the risk of COVID. 

“One of the advantages to having a vaccinate to participate or vaccinate all staff is that it essentially takes COVID back to much, much less dangerous than influenza,” Benjamin said during an earlier meeting.

One thing’s for sure—no matter what the board decides, they’ll be getting a lot of angry emails. Here are some “highlights” from the evening’s meeting. 

HAPPENING NOW: Dozens of parents are outside of Wake County School Headquarters while board members hold a regular meeting.

Parents I spoke with say measures like mask mandates are invasive and the option should be left to the parents. @WRAL #wral pic.twitter.com/R9HVUL08Aw

— Aaron Thomas (@WRALAaron) September 7, 2021

Another Wake County parent keeps it classy during today’s @wcpss board meeting.

She wets her mask, puts it face down, and then wipes it all over the podium. #COVIDIOT @WCPSS #wcpss@SarahBurris pic.twitter.com/uoWxe1q2X0

— BeingHelpish (@BeingHelpish) September 7, 2021

The next speaker at the Wake School Board opted NOT to use the podium after the previous speaker left a mess. pic.twitter.com/KqJCKyMdSP

— Aaron Thomas (@WRALAaron) September 7, 2021


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Follow Staff Writer Jasmine Gallup on Twitter or send an email to jgallup@indyweek.com.