Mask issue continues at Southington school board meetings

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SOUTHINGTON — Exchanges between school board members and parents opposed to mask requirements for students continued on Thursday at the last board meeting before the election next week.

A group of parents, including a Libertarian candidate for the school board, have attended recent meetings asking the board to allow families to make their own choice about whether or not to have students wear masks and to push state officials to change mask mandates. School officials repeated Thursday that they’re bound by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders on mask wearing in public buildings.

Michael Kryzanski, parent of a DePaolo Middle School student, attended the meeting dressed as the killer from the movie “Scream” because he feels parents opposed to mask requirements were viewed as “monsters.” He said wearing a mask for an entire school day was difficult for his child and that she had been repeatedly reprimanded for not wearing a mask properly. 

“I would not be following these rules so I can’t expect her to follow these rules,” he said.

Board members said the decision on wearing masks in school wasn’t up to the school board. Bob Brown, a Democratic board member running for reelection, said the district stood to lose millions in funding if it ignored the mandate and that board members could be personally liable.

“You shouldn’t be asking public officials to put their house on the line,” Brown said.

He wanted parents and education officials to focus on the mental health aspects of the pandemic and work to address rising behavioral issues among students.

“There’s an awful lot more to the picture than just the mask,” he said.

Some speakers Thursday doubted the state would pull funding from Southington over the mask issue and said the board shouldn’t prioritize funding over students’ well being.

Tyler Young, a frequent speaker at recent education board meetings, said it wasn’t acceptable for board members to say they’re just following state orders.

“Have the dollar signs of federal funding completely clouded your ability to see?” she asked.

Susan Zabohonski, another speaker at Thursday’s meeting, hoped the new board elected next week would push for mandate repeals at the state level and fight for local students.

“No governor is going to remove funding from Southington due to pushing back. It’d be political suicide,” she said.

Board chairwoman Terri Carmody, a Democrat running for reelection, reiterated a statement she’s made at recent meetings.

“I know that many of you do not sincerely believe we have a mandate that we have to follow,” Carmody said. “A mandate is a law. We are bound to abide by the law of the governor.”

Missy Cipriano, a Republican board member not running for reelection, said it was important to differ with civility and to focus on issues over which the board had authority.

“We need to keep it honed in at home,” Cipriano said.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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