Pediatrician and Blue Valley school board candidate Christine White — who had campaigned for months against COVID-19 safety protocols before saying her views against masks had changed — announced Thursday night that she is dropping out of the race.
“I plan to focus my time and energy on my family, my medical practice, and educating patients and their families about how to limit their exposure to COVID-19,” she posted on Facebook. “While it is too late to remove my name from the ballot, if I am elected, I will resign the position to allow another community volunteer to serve in that capacity. This was a decision that I reached independently, and it was not something I felt pressured to do.”
In an email to The Star on Thursday night, White declined to provide further comment.
White, a physician with Johnson County Pediatrics, had posted in May that, “masks should be optional for children come fall of 2021. Both inside and out.”
In July, she shared a flyer on her campaign Facebook page that listed her as one of three Blue Valley school board candidates who would allegedly support “mask choice. No COVID trackers. Board accountability and transparency.”
But earlier this month — after The Star published a report about her securing a mask exemption for one of her school-age children, as well as an editorial on her school board candidacy — White posted on Facebook that she had changed her mind on masks.
“I and the physicians of Johnson County Pediatrics agree, without exception, with the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC concerning wearing masks and the need for people 12 and older to get vaccinated for Covid-19. … My views on masks have changed. I want kids to be able to attend school IN PERSON. If wearing a mask prevents spread of infection or a child from having to quarantine and miss 8 to 10 days of learning, then I support children wearing masks in school.”
White’s announcement was disappointing for supporters who have protested against masks and have rallied behind the pediatrician over the last year. But many others have criticized White for downplaying the virus. Several parents accused her of pandering to both sides, and were quick to point out White’s wording, “If wearing a mask prevents spread of infection …”
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend universal masking indoors for grades K-12 and agree that masks are proven to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Last year, White routinely advocated at county and school board meetings for children to return to in-person classes as COVID-19 cases reached new highs. And she organized a rally last fall after a COVID outbreak at an elementary school led to 100 people in quarantine, arguing that pulling that many people out of school was a “massive overreaction.”
But in her announcement on Thursday, White elaborated on her change of opinion on masks in schools.
“I entered pediatric medicine because I wanted to make a difference in improving the overall health of a vulnerable population in our society. That still holds true to this day,” she wrote.
“…Our society has been battling a serious threat to our health and prosperity for a year and a half. And that time will be extended indefinitely until we, as a society, make a concerted effort to eradicate COVID-19. It has devastated many families who have lost their loved ones, their vitality, their jobs and livelihoods.
“How to live in a pandemic has also divided communities. But we need to work together to rid COVID-19 and (its) variants from our society. And that starts with education. It is extremely important that our kids get to attend school in person, and wearing masks can ensure that occurs. That is why, with the arrival of new variants, my views on masks have changed.
“I want to be a part of collaborative efforts to educate the public that wearing masks, getting the COVID-19 vaccine when eligible, socially distancing and practicing hand hygiene all play an important role in stopping the spread.”
In the Nov. 2 election, White was set to face newcomer Gina Knapp for a seat on the Blue Valley school board representing the northwest area of the district. The winner replaces member Stacy Obringer-Varhall, who is not seeking reelection.