Backpackers Tokyo

Families protest any potential mask mandates before the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting held at the district office on July 27, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended those who are vaccinated should we

Families protest any potential mask mandates before the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting held at the district office on July 27, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended those who are vaccinated should wear masks indoors including students returning to school. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

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It’s back-to-school season during the apocalypse, and Americans are celebrating by losing their minds.

As the delta variant overtakes the country at a rapid, horrifying clip —and infects kids who were once thought to have been spared the worst of the pandemic—some families are swapping pencil-shopping and backpack-buying for fits of fear and rage about mask mandates and vaccines. Teachers and students are getting sick, parents are fighting for and against mask policies, and school board meetings are turning tense and nasty as a result.

In Florida, the new epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., officials are also seemingly doing a poor job at controlling the virus itself, considering students and teachers alike are already winding up ill and quarantined. In Palm Beach County, for example, there were 51 confirmed COVID-19 cases between kids and staff just a few days into the school year, and about 400 students entered quarantine, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel . Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has tried to aggressively block any school mask mandate , is now facing blowback from some officials there. The county, which is complying with the governor’s rules, is telling students to wear masks while allowing them to opt out if their parents write a note.

“The governor’s got to take responsibility for establishing the ground rules we’re operating under,” Interim Superintendent Michael Burke said on MSNBC, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “This ability for families to opt out is leading to more cases, which will ultimately send more kids home and deprive them of that traditional classroom experience.”

Indeed, some parents, left to their own devices, don’t care much for public health recommendations. In Georgia, where cases are surging, parents clashed over masks in one school district after fifth-graders there were sent home due to a rash of coronavirus cases. Parents showed up to headquarters of the Cobb County School District Thursday, holding signs with opposing messages like “Moms for masks” and “Unmask our kids,” according to CNN . (The district doesn’t currently require masks , anyway.) In Nevada, a Clark County School Board meeting also devolved into yelling on Thursday, with one mother—a registered nurse—comparing mask requirements to abuse, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal .

On the collegiate level, the University of Iowa put out classroom speech guidance telling faculty members to only comment on vaccines and masks if it related to course materials about “health-related issues,” or, if asked, their own decision to wear masks and get vaccinated. But “making a statement regarding the value of the choice or any value judgments about decisions not to be vaccinated” was a no-go, according to Inside Higher Ed . After pushback from professors, the guidance was removed from the university’s website, which now reads, “To be posted soon—revisions in progress.” 

Here’s a few other awful things that have happened with schools in the past several days:

  • The father of an elementary school student in Sutter Creek, California, allegedly assaulted a teacher during an argument about masks, according to KOVR, a CBS affiliate in Sacramento 
  • Three teachers and a teacher’s assistant died of COVID-19 complications in Broward County, Florida, in less than two days, according to WTVJ, an NBC affiliate in Miami . At least three were unvaccinated.
  • After the Board of Education in Williamson County, Tennessee, approved a temporary mask mandate for elementary students and staff Tuesday , a seemingly anti-mask man heckled a pro-mask father as he attempted to drive away from the scene, saying, "We know who you are. You can leave freely, but we will find you,” according to CNN .
  • That same night, a school board meeting in Guilderland, New York, had to be temporarily adjourned so people could calm down after shouting and yelling, according to WNYT . Some board members said they were threatened prior to the meeting, where many parents reportedly voiced their concerns against masks. 
  • When the Fox Chapel Area School District in Pennsylvania approved a universal indoor mask mandate Monday, one man raised his arm in a Nazi salute, while others in attendance started jeering, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac wrote in a letter to the school district community on Wednesday that she was troubled that “some members of the public that were in attendance compared the decisions that the district and school board were making regarding student health and safety planning to the atrocities of the Holocaust, including a visible display of a Nazi salute directed at the board.” 
  • In California, The Vista Unified School District’s board had to shut down its meeting three times after some members of the crowd refused to wear masks .
  • Four small Georgia public school districts suspended in-person learning due to a rise in COVID-19 cases , according to the Associated Press. 
  • A Mississippi elementary school was forced to close for 14 days over a COVID-19 outbreak .

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