The Middletown Board of Education’s decision to continue to hold its meetings at the VFW curtails the First Amendment rights of the public, puts a strangle-hold on the democratic process, and potentially puts police officers’ lives at risk. Clearly, allowing masks to be optional at the VFW meetings, in defiance of the spirit of executive orders from the governor, discourages the attendance of the majority of residents that believe in the science of masking . That allows the Board’s supporters from the anti-mask, anti-vaxxer minority from the Far-Right to appear significantly larger than actual polling would indicate.  In a similar tactic to squash democracy, the Board’s decision to eliminate the Zoom participation option had the consequence, intended or not, of discriminating against the disabled and those at a high risk for Covid.  It was a reckless, dangerous, and machiavellian maneuver by officials on the Board.

But the Board’s irresponsibility does not stop at public endangerment; it also affects police officers who may have to respond to disturbances at the now tumultuous Board meetings. The Board has intimated it did not want to put police officers in the position of having to get in between pro and anti-mask members of the public. But now, police may have to respond to incidents at the risky, mask-optional meetings at the VFW, instead of the safer, mask-mandatory meetings on district property. The Board’s response that it wanted to eliminate “conflicts” undermines the Rule of Law – like saying we want to eliminate the conflict of burglary simply by making it legal. If members of the public insist on going maskless on school grounds at a Board meeting, then they are in violation of the Governor’s executive order and need to be dealt with by the police. Enforcing the law, not appeasing law-breakers, is what makes for a safe society. The majority of Board members have embraced anarchy, both in spirit and in practice at their chaotic meetings.

We are on a slippery slope. The Board is setting the precedent of holding its meetings in places and under circumstances that constitute a health hazard, apparently in order to intimidate their critics and embolden their supporters from the Far-Right. They have no more right to hold meetings without masks, then if they held them in a building that was structurally unsound, contained mold, or was a fire trap. Covid has been weaponized by the Board in a blatant attempt to silence those who will not stand by and let their children become the latest victims of the Trump Death Cult. 

Today, the issue is masking in schools. Tomorrow it may be vaccinations, critical race theory, or any number of issues the Board, dominated by the Far-Right, feels are threatening. Left unchecked, they can simply hold meetings under conditions designed to suit their need to stifle opposition and support the irrational demands of their supporters. Ironically, for a movement that espouses unfettered freedom to breathe without a mask, it is democracy itself that is being suffocated by this Board. 

Mark Grieco


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