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State Board of Education rejects resolution supporting school mask mandates

Students wear masks at a school in Baghdad.
Anadolu Agency
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Students wear masks at a school in Baghdad.

Vaccines and mask mandates dominated the public comment portion of Tuesday’s Michigan Board of Education meeting.

The board doesn’t have the authority to require either, but it did consider a resolution supporting masking and COVID-19 testing policies.

Former teacher Bonnie Wood was among the dozens who spoke during public comment. She said despite the board's inability to mandate masks or vaccines, it was still important for her to show up to oppose those rules, because the school board can influence the state Legislature.

“So, in the mix of things, it’s very important what they think,” Wood said of the board.

The resolution ultimately failed, to the disappointment of Democratic board member Pamela Pugh. She said it would have been a powerful step for the Democrat-led board to push the Democratic governor’s administration to act.

“We’ve had back and forth conversations via correspondence, and the responses that I have received are not good enough to keep our children in classrooms and keep them healthy and keep our teachers safe,” Pugh said.

Pugh pointed to Michigan’s significantly higher case numbers and positivity rate compared to spring 2020 when Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration implemented COVID-19 prevention measures in full force.

“So, we know that we have an impact on the education of our children. We have an impact on the family unit. Those things cause trauma. But we also know we have children who are being hospitalized at higher rates,” Pugh said.

On the other side of the vote, Republican board member Nikki Snyder said she’s glad the resolution failed.

“The government shouldn’t be making those choices for students and for families, and therefore, once they put themselves in that position to make those decisions for students and families, politics become involved,” she said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board did adopt a resolution supporting teacher retention and recruitment efforts through scholarships, tuition reimbursement, and loan repayment.

The school board also approved a resolution on how history should be taught. That resolution involved supporting districts “with policy guidance and standards that promote diversity, racial equity and inclusion.”

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